England’s boundary fielders are bracing themselves for a challenging day at Dharamsala on Tuesday, following a warning about the problematic outfield at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium. The caution comes from Jonathan Trott, the former England batsman and current Afghanistan coach.
The outfield, which is sand-based, features uneven patches of grass, leading to players slipping and struggling to maintain their footing while fielding, as was evident in Bangladesh’s recent victory over Afghanistan on Saturday.
This issue has persisted at the venue and even forced the relocation of a Test match between India and Australia to Indore on short notice in February.
Trott specifically highlighted an incident involving Mujeeb Ur Rahman, where his knee dug into the turf during an attempt to save a boundary, narrowly avoiding a serious knee injury. Trott has reportedly reached out to England players to forewarn them about the condition of the outfield ahead of their match against Bangladesh.
Despite these concerns, the match officials’ report has categorized the outfield’s condition as “average.” ICC’s independent pitch consultant, Andy Atkinson, inspected it and expressed his satisfaction with its state on Sunday.
“The process for assessing the condition of the pitch and outfield lies with the match officials under the ICC Pitch and Outfield Monitoring Process, and the outfield at Dharamsala was rated as average after the Afghanistan vs. Bangladesh match,” said an ICC spokesperson. “Additionally, the ICC independent pitch consultant has taken a look at the outfield today and is comfortable with the conditions – as is Javagal Srinath, the Match Referee for the next game.”
Following Saturday’s match, the ground staff at HPCA promptly watered the outfield and repeated the process on Sunday, paying particular attention to the areas around the bowlers’ run-ups. The upcoming match on Tuesday will be played on a fresh pitch located two strips away from the unusually slow surface used on Saturday.
In the worst-case scenario, if the umpires, in consultation with the match referee, determine the ground conditions to be “dangerous or unreasonable,” the game could first be suspended and then abandoned. In such a situation, the teams would share the points. Ahsan Raza and Paul Wilson will be the standing umpires on Tuesday, with Srinath serving as the match referee.
The condition of the outfield may influence England’s decision regarding the inclusion of Ben Stokes in the lineup. Stokes, who missed their previous nine-wicket loss to New Zealand due to a left hip injury, participated in a net session on Sunday. However, he faced sidearm throws instead of bowlers and moved cautiously throughout the session. Stokes also briefly engaged in some running drills on the main square. Notably, he did not play in either of England’s warm-up matches, and prior to the training session in Guwahati, he had batted only once since arriving in India.