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Rain threat follows IPL to reserve day

The Super Soppers at the Eden Gardens live to fight another day but the battle between cricket and rain won’t be any easier on Wednesday.

“Showers are a possibility till at least Wednesday morning. The sky should start clearing by afternoon, though there can be one or two very light spells after that,” said Gokul Chandra Debnath, director of the India Meteorological Department, Calcutta.

Since the rescheduled IPL-7 playoff is to start at 4pm, any amount of rain before afternoon would leave the Eden ground staff with little time to ready the sweating pitch and the soaked outfield for the big-ticket match.

Calcutta has received more than 60mm of rain over the past two days, the intensity of the wet spell increasing with the passage of a low-pressure area headed Northeast. The start-stop-start rain is expected to continue till Thursday.

IMD Calcutta has forecast “a few spells of light to moderate rain” on Wednesday, totalling anything between 2.5 to 35.5mm. The 24-hour rain count till 5.30pm on Tuesday was 30.7mm.

If there was an outside possibility of the Eden Gardens being dried in time for the KKR-Kings XI Punjab match on Tuesday, it was killed by a smart shower the previous evening.

Sources in the Cricket Association of Bengal said the intensity of the shower caught the 100-strong ground staff off guard. “They had removed the covers to dry the ground but the rain returned so fast and hard that a portion of the outfield near the clubhouse got soaked before it could be covered,” a CAB official said.

That part of the outfield was one of the areas of concern for the umpires when they inspected the ground on Tuesday afternoon before ruling out play.

The scheduled start was 8pm and a five-overs-a-side game could have started as late as 12.20am, but the match officials thought it more prudent to use the reserve day.

“When a ground is covered for long, there is sweating under the sheets as well as some seepage during heavy rainfall. The ground becomes soft and it takes time to get it ready for a game,” former Bengal player Naresh Ojha said.

Sunshine would have helped but there was not a glimpse of it throughout Tuesday. Chances of the sun making an appearance on Wednesday aren’t bright either.

“Sunshine or no sunshine, we will take off the covers on Wednesday if there is no rain and deploy our four Super Soppers and ground staff to get the ground ready by the scheduled start of play at 4pm,” the CAB official said.

A full 20-overs-a-side contest can start latest by 6pm. If more time is required to ready the ground, the number of overs will be reduced.

For a five-overs-a-side shootout, which is the minimum for a game to be valid, the first ball has to be bowled by 8.20pm. If there isn’t time for that, the Knight Riders would be hoping for a super-over contest. The deadline for that is 9.10pm.

In the event of a washout, Kings XI Punjab will travel to Bangalore for the final while KKR would head for Mumbai to play the second qualifier on Friday.