The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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For North, it’s not cool off the field
- ‘Strange’ hotel and an ordinary team bus

Calcutta: The introduction of one team from overseas, four seasons ago, was meant to raise the profile of the Duleep Trophy.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) even began projecting it as an achievement.

In focusing on the videshi teams, though, the BCCI has forgotten about the desi players. That has been evident in the ongoing final at the Eden.

Indeed, the North Zone team is commuting in a non-airconditioned coach, while the Sri Lanka A cricketers have the luxury of a deluxe (airconditioned) bus.

The red carpet must be laid out for visitors, absolutely no dispute there, but how can the BCCI discriminate' The billions, after all, are filling its coffers courtesy the players.

“I agree both finalists should get equal treatment, but there are financial constraints… The Sri Lankans had to be given an airconditioned coach because of a directive from the BCCI,” explained Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) joint-secretary Saradindu Pal.

The CAB is hosting the final and Pal is the East’s convenor for zonal tournaments.

Perhaps, the CAB would’ve gone the extra yard to make the Ashish Nehras and Gautam Gambhirs feel comfortable, but (for political reasons) it hasn’t been receiving any subsidy from the BCCI.

The discrimination, of course, hasn’t been limited to transport: The Sri Lankans are in the opulent Oberoi Grand, while the North Zone players are in a “strange place.”

“There are frequent power cuts and, when that happens, the airconditioners go off and the geysers don’t work… It’s just too bad and the officials have been passing the buck,” one of the exasperated North Zone players told The Telegraph.

Another added: “They’ve been saying a communication gap has caused this fiasco. But why do we have to pay' Believe it or not, the hotel’s reception is on the fifth floor, while our rooms are on the fourth! We’re in the midst of an unusual experience…”

Asked to comment, Pal quickly passed the buck to the North Zone convenor — Delhi’s Sunil Dev, a former India manager.

“The city is currently hosting many events and the quality hotels are all booked. Still, we’d offered to shift the North Zone team to the Peerless Inn from the first day.

“Mr Dev, however, said the tariff there would be beyond the budget… The CAB can’t be blamed… After all, we’ve got to be guided by what the zonal convenor says… That’s how it works.”

Pal, it seems, is on firm ground.

The question is: For the final, at least, why can’t the BCCI block rooms in a reputed hotel through its travel agent' The fixtures, in any case, are known months in advance.

Even if the BCCI doesn’t wish to shoulder additional responsibility, it could reimburse actuals (subject to a reasonable upper limit) instead of paying out a flat Rs 2 lakh to the zonal convenors for each match.

That amount is for travel and hotel expenses.

Calls to BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah went unanswered on Tuesday evening, but clear-cut guidelines are needed.

Surely, the players alone must not be held accountable. What about the administrators who themselves overlook the basics'

Postscript: Late at night the BCCI’s chief administrative officer, Prof. Ratnakar Shetty, endorsed Pal’s stand on the hotel issue. He added: “The staging association gets Rs 25,000 per day and transport expenses have to be covered in that… The treatment to the visitors is in keeping with the reciprocal arrangement we have with Sri Lanka Cricket.”

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