Calcutta: For four days, umpires K. Srinath and P. Jayapal, along with Match Referee Manu Nayar, inspected the Eden ground so many times that they could easily be called ‘inspectors’, not match officials.
But unfortunately, after every inspection, the trio came back with their heads nodding in disapproval. As a result, at 12.30pm on Wednesday the Bengal-Baroda Ranji Trophy match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Both the teams got a point each. But that’s not the point...
The abandoned Ranji match has thrown up a plethora of questions in the lead-up to the India-West Indies Test, set to begin on November 6. More than just a Test, it has now become a test for the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) to host a glitch-free match, which is also Sachin Tendulkar’s 199th Test.
Abandoned matches are not rare occurrences in sport. Any outdoor event, which has to depend on the mercy of Mother Nature for smooth functioning, may be called off for unsuitable conditions. But here, at the Eden, suitability and unsuitability overlapped with such a complexity that one isn’t sure whether to blame just the elements for playing spoilsport.
True, the four-day Ranji game, from Sunday to Wednesday, was preceded by heavy rains. But since Sunday, not a single drop of rain has fallen on the Eden turf. Rather, except for Sunday, which was mostly gloomy, the remaining three days have been as sunny as the sun can possibly make it. Yet, the match officials deemed the ground unfit for play, citing damp underground conditions.
“Some portions of the ground were unstable… A lot of water had seeped in during the rains last week and that resulted in ground becoming too soft at places. It was unsafe for the players. The curator and the groundstaff did their best, but still it wasn’t enough,” Match Referee Nayar said.
Captains Laxmi Ratan Shukla and Yusuf Pathan, too, defended the match officials’ decision. “There was nothing which could have been done… You can’t deny that there was too much rain this time… In fact, we hardly practised outdoors in the last one month. The ground was simply not ready,” Shukla said.
Pathan echoed his counterpart. “You can’t control nature… Fact is, the ground was a bit dangerous for play.”
While the CAB, pretty interestingly, is blaming the river Hooghly’s proximity to the ground as the reason why the moisture beneath the top layer of the soil couldn’t be get rid of, curator Prabir Mukherjee has reportedly said that some sessions of play was possible, adding though that it is ultimately the match officials’ call.
It’s immaterial to ponder on whether the CAB has got its geographical explanations right, fact is that if three days of sunshine isn’t enough to dry a Test venue of repute, which should compulsorily have a sound drainage system, then something somewhere is definitely wrong.
CAB sources claimed that the situation could have been avoided if the men in charge of the ground would have reacted with more timely attention. While some say that the outfield covers could have been used, others pointed out that the ground remained waterlogged for too long and that resulted in the seepage.
The question then is how prepared is the Eden, ‘on the ground’, to host what is going to be one of the most glittering matches in its impressive history. What happens if there is any more rain in the lead-up to or during the Test?
Well, the CAB claims the weather forecasts assure safety. As further ‘precaution’, a gag order has been issued on the curator. But instead of covering up loopholes, covering the ground properly is always a better alternative.