Calcutta: Prabir Mukherjee, the Eden Gardens' veteran curator, is maintaining a brave face but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has for all intents and purposes made him redundant. All for having bluntly asked for written instructions in case the wicket for the third Test against England, from December 5, had to be played on a square turner.
In a most unusual move, Ashish Bhowmick, the East Zone's representative on the BCCI's grounds and pitches committee, has rushed back to Calcutta a day after leaving the city. He has been asked to 'assist' Mukherjee.
This suggests that Mukherjee's wings have been clipped.
Daljit Singh, head of the grounds and pitches committee, told The Telegraph: "I've enormous respect for Prabirda and he remains the curator. Bhowmick's visit, where I am concerned, is routine."
Mukherjee, it may be recalled, stunned the BCCI and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni by asking for a written communication if Team India wanted a turner for the third Test against England at the Eden Gardens.
"I have already started preparation for the pitch for the third Test between India and England. To me, a good Test match pitch means a hard turf with a tinge of green. If the team management wants a turning track, it has to come from the Board in writing," Mukherjee was quoted as saying.
Mukherjee also slammed Dhoni. "It's most unethical if the India captain makes such statements in public... He's passing such comments every now and then, which is really unfortunate," Mukherjee said, while referring to Dhoni's comment that he expected a Wankhede-like pitch at the Eden.
Dhoni, after the Ahmedabad Test, had actually demanded wickets that would turn 'right from the start'. "I don't even want to see this wicket. There wasn't enough turn and bounce for the spinners. Hopefully, in the coming matches, we'll see the wicket turn, right from start, or as soon as possible so that the toss doesn't become vital. What we want to see is two good sides competing against each other, with the toss taken out of the equation," Dhoni had said after the nine-wicket win.
And he didn't move from his stand even after losing the second Test at the Wankhede because of the turn. "We would like a typical subcontinental wicket in Calcutta, which should turn. As I have been saying, it should turn from the first day so that there is no importance of toss and whichever team plays better cricket wins the game," he had said.
"Of course we want a similar track as that's where our speciality is. What's the point playing on flat tracks, trying to win the toss and just bat for 3 or 4 days. You want to face challenges in Test cricket and these are the sort of wickets that push you towards that, so definitely all the wickets should be like that," he had added.
Publicly, Mukherjee has denied that his powers have been curtailed. "I have not got any instruction from the BCCI… No one has asked me to prepare a customised wicket… But I can assure you that the wicket will not be under-prepared," he said on Wednesday.
Mukherjee also praised Bhowmick, who is from the Tripura Cricket Association. "He is a sincere and honest person… He is eager and wanted to work with me. He had paid a visit on Monday, a day after Daljit Singh came to inspect the pitch."
But sources within the CAB have confirmed that this step is most unusual. Normally, the zonal representative spends a couple of days in the lead up to a Test/ODI/T20.
But there are quite a few days before the start of the third Test. The BCCI, who has backed Dhoni's demands, obviously wants somebody who is compliant with their wishes.