ICC takes away India-England World Cup game from Eden Gardens (Roundup)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

KOLKATA/NEW DELHI - Leaving the organisers red-faced, the International Cricket Council (ICC) Thursday ruled Eden Gardens in Kolkata unsuitable for hosting the Feb 27 India-England World Cup tie due to its unpreparedness.

After the hue and cry over the last-minute scrambling to get Delhi ready for the Commonwealth Games last year, this is yet another slap on the face of Indian sports officials for failing to deliver the scheduled work on time.

The ICC took the decision following an adverse report from its venue inspection team that visited Kolkata and four other grounds earlier this week to review their readiness for the big event being hosted jointly by India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka February-March.

The inspection team comprising tournament director Ratnakar Shetty, members of the Central Organising Committe (COC) and the ICC inspected three Sri Lanka venues, as well as Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and Eden Gardens.

They gave a green signal to the Sri Lankan grounds and Wankhede subject to completing minor finishing jobs within 14 days.

“The experts’ report, however, determined that Eden Gardens in Kolkata would not be ready within an acceptable time frame to host the India vs England ICC Cricket World Cup match on Feb 27,” the ICC said in a statement.

“Of particular concern was the fact that host venue obligations in relation to cricket operations, media, broadcast and sponsorship facilities were not finalised and/or confirmed by the venue,” the ICC said two days after the team inspected the Eden Gardens, run and maintained by the local staging association Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) led by former ICC chief Jagmohan Dalmiya.

ICC president Sharad Pawar was Dalmiya’s bete noire in internal politics of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). In a late night media meet, Dalmiya claimed that the match still could be played at the Eden Gardens and said he had a series telephonic conversations with BCCI president Shashank Manohar, secretary N.Srinivasan and Shetty.

“They have assured me they will take up the matter with the ICC,” he said.

Dalmiya also wrote to Manohar expressing shock over the ICC decision and appealed to him to advise the international body to reconsider its decision.

Refering to the 14-day extension given by the ICC to four other venues, including Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium to complete the finishing work, Dalmiya asked for an extension of 10 days from Thursday up to Feb 7 to hand over a complete Eden Gardens to the game’s apex body. However, knives were already out for Dalmiya as one of his staunch opponents demanded his resignation from the post of the CAB president.

“This is very shameful. It must be found out why the match could not be staged,” former CAB joint secretary Samar Pal told IANS.

Unfortunately, it was India’s only match at Eden Gardens - till some time back the most high-profile cricket stadium in this part of the world - that staged the 1987 World Cup final. The ground is supposed to host three other games-South Africa vs. Ireland (March 15), the Netherlands vs. Ireland (March 18), and Zimbabwe vs. Kenya (March 20).

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat has informed the BCCI of the decision. As the host, the BCCI will now consider an alternate venue for approval by the ICC.

“All venues had ample time to prepare for World Cup matches. We had been understanding and had provided extensions to the deadline dates but unfortunately we are now at a point where we must carefully manage our risks,” Lorgat said.

“Regrettably, Eden Gardens has not made sufficient progress to justify the level of confidence required to confirm that the venue would be ready in good time. This was no easy decision to take and while it is most unfortunate, it is absolutely necessary,” said Lorgat.

The inspection team drew on the knowledge and experience of some of the leading experts in the field of stadium and ground preparation and the view was that Eden Gardens would not be ready by Feb 27.

The ICC has also recognised the challenge of relocating a scheduled match.

“We will work with the new venue, the tour operators and the ticket distributors to manage the logistical challenges that will surely arise,” Shetty said.

CAB joint secretary Biswarup Dey said the ICC inspection team had discussed some minor problems like the length of the sight screen, the unfinished work in installing bucket seats in two of the galleries, and the location of the radio commentary booth.

“We were ready to increase the height of the sightscreen by three-four feet, relocate the commentary booth and finish the pending work on the two galleries by Jan 31,” Dey said.

The West Bengal government, with which the Damliya has had a series of run ins, also rallied around the beleagured body. “I have seen the progress of work myself. ICC has taken the decision in haste. I have told CAB to appeal. The government will help in whatever way it can,” said state Sports Minister Kanti Ganguly.

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