The BCCI has asked Ashish Bhowmick, a member of its ground and pitches committee, to assist Prabir Mukherjee, the groundsman at Eden Gardens, in preparing the pitch for the third Test against England, which begins in Kolkata on December 5. It seems a routine move, part of BCCI's policy of getting one of the committee members to oversee the preparation of Test pitches, but it has been the focus of speculation, considering MS Dhoni's continued demands for pitches that turn from day one.
Dhoni and the 83-year-old Mukherjee haven't had the most cordial working relationship either. Despite India's completion of a 5-0 whitewash of England in 2011-12 with a win in the last ODI in Kolkata, Dhoni called the Eden Gardens pitch an "ugly wicket". Mukherjee, never one to hold back, responded by saying, "Pitches don't score runs, batsmen do." It was also reported that Mukherjee had made disparaging comments about Dhoni's demands for specific pitches.
Board officials, however, sought to dowse speculation. "Prabir Mukherjee is one of the most senior curators in India and Bhowmick, being a member of the BCCI ground and pitches committee from the East Zone, has been asked to assist him," Biswarup Dey, the treasurer of Cricket Association of Bengal, told ESPNcricinfo.
Mukherjee himself was not flustered by Bhowmick's visit. "It's not that I've been removed or sidelined. We will work together to prepare the wicket," he told PTI. "I'm more than happy to assist him. He has been asked by the board to help me out. It's not something that is happening for the first time. I don't understand what's the fuss about it."
The BCCI has a policy of asking each of the five members of the ground and pitches committee to oversee the preparation of wickets for international games in their respective zones. While Ramesh Mahamulkar, the Wankhede Stadium curator, prepared the wicket for last week's Test in Mumbai, Sudhir Naik, the West Zone representative in the committee, supervised the preparations ahead of the match. Similarly, Daljit Singh, the head of the ground and pitches committee, visited Kolkata last week to see if everything was in place.
After the Ahmedabad Test against England, which India won by nine wickets on a slow pitch, Dhoni had stated his preference for surfaces that turned and bounced right from the start, so that "the toss was taken out of the equation". The pitch at Wankhede Stadium met his demands, but England levelled the series with a ten-wicket win.
The BCCI, during its annual general meeting in September, had ratified a proposal to expand the ground and pitches committee from five members to 12. The seven additional members were supposed to travel to other centres and help prepare pitches for important games, if required, and also look after the tracks for domestic games that clash with international matches in India.