The Nagpur pitch used for the third Test between India and South Africa has been given a "poor" rating by the match referee, Jeff Crowe, in his report. The report has been submitted to the ICC, and the BCCI, which has been informed of the rating, will now have 14 days to respond.
The match finished inside three days, ending in an India victory, and there were several occasions of the ball misbehaving off the surface. Batsmen had to contend with variable turn, variable pace and variable bounce even on the first day of the game.
The match referee's report, which included concerns raised by the match officials, will lead to a review of the Nagpur pitch's performance. ICC's General Manager of cricket Geoff Allardice and Chief Match Referee, Ranjan Madugalle will consider all the evidence, including studying video footage of the match, before reaching their decision on whether or not the pitch was poor and if so, whether a penalty should be imposed.
The penalty for a pitch that is called poor for the first time, as would be the case for Nagpur, can range from a warning and/or a fine of $15,000 with a directive to institute corrective measures.
The ICC's pitch and outfield monitoring process in 2010 states that a pitch is said to be poor if it any of the following apply:
- The pitch offers excessive seam movement at any stage of the match
- The pitch displays excessive unevenness of bounce for any bowler at any stage of the match
- The pitch offers excessive assistance to spin bowlers, especially early in the match
- The pitch displays little or no seam movement or turn at any stage in the match together with no significant bounce or carry, thereby depriving the bowlers of a fair contest between bat and ball.
Thirty-three of the 40 wickets that fell were to spinners. South Africa, in their first innings, slumped to 12 for 5 and then 79 all out. Not a single batsman was able to score a fifty, which was a first for a Test in India.
The match narrative prompted strong criticism of the extent to which pitches have been made to suit spin but the Indian camp had been resolute in saying these are the conditions that should be expected in India. Captain Virat Kohli said it was up to the batsmen to adapt. Team director Ravi Shastri had said there was "nothing wrong with" the pitches in use for the series three days ago.
From the South African camp, their captain Hashim Amla had called the Nagpur pitch the toughest he has had in his 11-year Test career.
A senior BCCI official familiar with Indian pitches expressed surprise at the rating and even compared the Nagpur pitch to the Ashes Test earlier this summer at Trent Bridge. "Even that Test at Trent Bridge finished in two days, so I don't know how this rating was arrived at," the official said. He added that the Nagpur pitch had bounce, the ball was turning and seaming.
According to this official countries would keep doctoring pitches in the name of home advantage and that the best way to curb it is if the ICC appointed pitch inspectors for bilateral series. "The ICC should appoint five to six pitch inspectors, the itineraries are known well in advance. Send the inspectors well ahead of the series to various countries. Let them also study the pitches, understand the nature of the pitches and the local weather as such factors play a role. That is the only way to stop this [excess home advantage]"