By Syed Khalid Mahmood
India are at the receiving end once more. After being robbed of a possible victory in the fifth and final One-day International against Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in New Delhi on December 27, now efforts are being made to deny the historic venue the opportunity of hosting matches in the World Cup 2011.
The Indian cricketers did their job by winning the ODI series 3-1. They were on course of making it 4-1 when their opponents, not surprisingly, prevailed upon the match officials to call off the game in the 24th over.
Now the ball is in the court of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) who now have to deal with the International Cricket Council (ICC) over the issue of the Kotla pitch.
The BCCI, in the past, had been soft on such matters and the Indian cricketers were being taken for a ride. While all the sub-continental teams had suffered due to the dual standards carried out by the ICC match referees it were the Indians in particular penalized for offences that were ignored in the case of other countries.
Interestingly both the contestants of the game in question at the Feroz Shah Kotla were Asians. Sri Lanka’s reluctance to continue playing the game allowed the ICC match referee, Alan Hurst, to exercise his powers and he acted within his rights.
Hurst, in his statement, said the decision to abandon the match had been taken in consultation with both captains and the on-field umpires Marais Erasmus and Shavir Tarapore, after they had given it enough time to see if the pitch would settle down.
"It was clear that the pitch had extremely variable bounce and was too dangerous for further play. I'd like to commend the on-field umpires and captains for continuing as long as they did in the hope that the pitch may settle down. Unfortunately, this did not happen,” the former Australian fast bowler said.
“Before abandoning the match, consideration was given to shifting the match to a secondary pitch. However, it was deemed impractical as the secondary pitch was not adequately prepared,” Hurst added.
Meanwhile Chetan Chauhan, a foromer Indian opening batsman and Vice President, Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA), did not mince words in stating that Sri Lanka "chickened out" out of the final ODI against India after finding themselves in trouble at 83 for 5 in the 24th over.
Chauhan, who was known for his solid batting, also questioned the officials' decision to call off the game and said the pitch was neither unplayable or dangerous.
"We offered another wicket and said 'give us one hour and you would have it ready'. But Hurst decided to call it off. The match should have continued because some 45,000 people were in the ground and another 2-3 crore were glued to the television. An honest effort should have been made to save the match," he contended.
He claimed while the match at the Feroz Shah Kotla was held up, with the officials pondering whether it would be wise to carry on, the ICC match referee told him that the visitors were reluctant to carry on.
"The match referee told me unofficially that one side did not want to carry on and he could not force them It could not be India since MS Dhoni was willing to continue. Sri Lanka were at 83 for 5 and that's why they backed out... it was the Sri Lankans who chickened out,” Chauhan felt.