Eden Garden Loses Its Sheen, Cab Creditability
Unthinkable has happened. Iconic Eden Garden has been stripped of the all important World Cup cricket match between India and England, which will now be held at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangaluru on February 27.
Eden Gardens was stripped of the match by the International Cricket Council (ICC) following an adverse report from its venue inspection team that visited Kolkata. The unpreparedness of the Eden Garden for such an event came as a shock to cricket fans as the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) headed by Jagmohan Dalmiya had been asserting that stadium will be fully ready much before the start of the World Cup.
The ICC, headed by Shard Pawar, did not want the repeat of Commonwealth Games drama engulfing the World Cup and was not prepared to wait till the last minute. “All the venues had been given enough time get ready for this prestigious event, CAB was well aware of it but it took things for granted and had to pay the price,” said a BCCI officials. However everybody agrees that ICC has been rather too harsh on the Eden Garden.
Despite been given assurance by the West Bengal government, Union Finance Minister and the CAB that stadium will be ready by February 7, the crucial game has been taken away and now Eden Garden is left to host Ireland’s two matches—against South Africa (March 15) and the Netherlands (March 18), followed by Kenya-Zimbabwe game on March 20.
Not many people are convinced that ICC took this decision on its own without consulting the BCCI and they have a point. This World Cup was slated to be held in Australia, but BCCI with its money power and support from few other boards got this event relocated to the subcontinent. Later it was the Indian board which managed to get more matches after the ICC decided not to host matches in Pakistan.
“If the BCCI can get World Cup shifted, can’t it get the match at Eden Garden,” said one CAB official, who did not want to be named. “It was no big deal to wait till February 7, the date by which CAB had promised to finish all the work at Eden Garden. Why the ICC was in such tearing hurry to relocate the match to Chinnaswamy Stadium? We are left with three unimportant matches and on top of it, ICC has threatened that they will take away even those matches if Stadium is found not ready by the inspection team,” he said.
ICC’ s rags to riches transformation took place under Jagmohan Dalmiya’s stewardship in the middle of 1990’s and the former BCCI Chief would never have dreamt that he will have to see a day, when his creation (modern day) ICC will turn out to be his destroyer.
Sentiments and emotions however have no place in modern day’s world where money and power matters. He lacks both. Dalmiya, kept on reiterating that Eden Gardens was ready for the World Cup, and was confident that the India-England match would not be taken away till the last, he maintained that CAB had not received a clear indication from the ICC about the specific areas where the preparation was lacking.
“Due to that, I am forced to say that we have completed our preparations. It has nothing to do with any acrimony with anyone. I have told various functionaries of the BCCI, including Secretary N Srinivasan, that we have not been given a fair opportunity to know our faults,” he said.
“The four or five points the ICC has mentioned while saying that it wants to take away the match are vague in nature,” he added. Dalmiya said he had repeated “talks” with Pawar, who has assured that a letter specifying the points for specification would soon be reaching the CAB. “I discussed the issue with Pawar four or five times and he has told me that the ICC would be writing to us about the exact requirements. We were supposed to get the letter on Sunday,” he said: “As soon as the letter arrives, we will look into the areas where we missed so badly that the match had to be taken away.” The State Public Works Department Minister, Kshiti Goswami, was also echoing the same sentiments while expressing satisfaction with the preparations. “The PWD department issues a fitness certificate without which no match can be held. The engineers informed me that the stadium is generally ready and only five per cent of the work is remaining,” he said.
He asserted that only minor work, which would take just two or three days, remained. “I am sure that the stadium will be fully ready by February 4 or 5. Whatever alterations the ICC is looking for can be completed in a couple of days,” he said.
“If the match is still taken away, I would say that there are some other interests in play,” said the minister, giving new dimension to the whole controversy. “We are still hopeful of organising the match and will sort out the problems that are preventing it from happening,” Dalmiya maintained before he received a final rejection from the ICC.
So desperate was West Bengal government for this match that Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee directed two of his ministers to involve Sourav Ganguly and put in all possible efforts to bring the match back to the city.
“The Chief Minister had tried his best, but it was not successful. (ICC Chief) Pawar called the Chief Minister to inform him about the ICC’s decision that holding the match at Eden Gardens is impossible as eight members of the ICC are against it.”
“Along with the whole state we are equally sorry, so much effort went in vain. Me, former Indian Captain Sourav Ganguly and PWD minister Kshiti Goswami were supposed to visit Delhi on February 1 as suggested by the CM, but everything has become futile now,” said state Urban Development Minister Ashok Bhattacharjee.
While Dalmiya and his colleagues along with state ministers were insisting that everything was fine and stadium will be ready on time there was a careful leak of the inspection committee’s report which exposed the CAB and state government’s claim. It is also surprising that man of Dalmiya’s stature and experience was caught napping about the leaked report, published in local daily The Telegraph, which was in fact a damning indictment of the CAB.
The report: There is significant work required to finish the stadium. The wicket block and outfield were in excellent condition. The ICC Venue Consultant advises that it will to take a further 28 days (until February 22) to complete the venue subject to significant increase in construction capacity from that evident on the day of inspection and confirmation from the CAB of the construction programme.
Major work to be completed includes: Completion of roofing structure, installation of bucket seating, removal of workers accommodation units from within the venue, completion of corporate boxes, completion of security perimeter fencing, surfacing of the precinct around the entire venue. Confirmation of lighting levels post construction, installation of entry gates, extensions to both main camera gantries to be undertaken, new mid-wicket camera position to be constructed.
It must also be noted that several aspects of the requirements outlined in previous ICC inspections have not yet been under-taken, including the following: Extending the main camera gantries at both ends to provide sufficient space for all cameras required to cover a game, and to cover both wickets that will be used, provision of a new suitable mid-wicket camera position since the previous location is now obscured by the new stand construction and replay screen temporary structure.
Agreement to the ICC ticket requirements, Agreement to provide suitable hospitality facilities for ICC sponsors Recommendation:
The venue to be withdrawn from hosting Cricket World Cup (CWC) matches due to the following reasons: State of preparedness of the venue for the venue inspection, no plan has been provided as to the building program for the venue, all construction deadlines (provided by the CAB) to date have been missed, no certification of any aspects of the venue has been submitted or offered. Completion of the venue five days prior to a major CWC match (India vs England) is insufficient time to test and prepare the venue Non-implementation of previous ICC Venue Inspection recommendations, non-confirmation of meeting the Host Agreement requirements including broadcast facilities, sponsor hospitality facilities and tickets. The above outstanding issues provide a significant risk to the event, ICC and host nation and it is for this reason the above recommendation is made.
Putting up a brave face CAB joint secretary Biswarup Dey said: “We all thought that we have got a lifeline but now it seems that all hopes of having the match are over. I am speechless. If the best efforts from Chief Minister aren’t enough, what can we say? But I would definitely raise this question at the BCCI meeting that how Bangalore can get two matches when it was decided all centres will get a match each. He wanted to know fully aware that nobody will answer his queries.
It is intriguing that while ICC has shown no leniency to CAB, it cleared Ferozshah Kotla and Wankhade stadium without much ado. Ferozshah Kotla brought shame to Indian cricket when the one-day match between India and Sri Lanka had to be abandoned because of the underprepared pitch.
The ICC even imposed a 16-month ban on it and though the ban is over, no first-class match has been played on the re-laid turf at Kotla but no question has been raised about the fitness of ground. Kotla is slated to host four matches: South Africa vs West Indies (February 24), Holland vs West Indies (February 28), Canada vs Kenya (March 7) and India vs Holland (March 9). Similarly concern have been raised about the Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai, the venue for the final of the World Cup but ICC has already given it a clean chit.
So why Eden Garden has been singled out, if one goes by what former IPL Chairman Lalit Modi has to say it is BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan who is responsible for Dalmiya being humiliated. He also blamed dirty Cricket Board politics for Eden Gardens’ loss of India-England match. “This tweet is my protest at shifting of India-England match from the Eden Gardens,” Modi said. “Sorry to see politics again—take away matches from Kolkata. I had restored them when I chaired the tours and fixtures committee. Though secretary opposed it. Once again dirty tricks department wants to alienate the fans,” wrote the former poster boy of IPL on his ‘Twitter’ page.
Other who came out openly in support of Eden Gardan was former Captain Bishen Singh Bedi who said it was wrong to strip Kolkata the right to host the India-England World Cup match and the local authorities should be given some more time to complete the renovation work at the historic Eden Gardens. Bedi who made history debut in this historic ground way back in 1969, opined the cricketing atmosphere in Kolkata and at Eden Garden is unique and awesome and this historic city has every right to host the high-profile encounter.
“It’s wrong whether ICC or BCCI (has done it) because the electrifying atmosphere, which is experienced in Kolkata is not seen anywhere in the world. I am not backing any cricket Association but it is an important game and Kolkata crowd deserves to watch it,” he said. “The other matches at Eden are insignificant (from the crowd point of view). Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore are the cities that have cricket culture and they should not be deprived of holding good matches,” he told media.
Having lost the high-profile game there is a sense of gloom at Eden Gardens and it may also lose the right of hosting the remaining three matches as the CAB may not be in a position to complete the roof construction work. The reason being that among the list of dos that ICC has handed out before they carry out another round of inspection on February 7, a major point was completion of “remaining roof construction and covering work in the two rebuilt stands by February 14”.
CAB had agreed to all other points save roof construction as they only plan to start the work after the fourth edition of Indian Premier League is over. Dalmiya, once the strong man of World Cricket, has been humbled, but has it helped the Indian cricket only time will tell but cricket buffs will keep their fingers crossed for the matches to be held in Delhi and at Wankhade.
Arun Jaitely (Delhi) Shard Pawar, Ratnakar Shetty or Shashank Manhore (Mumbai/West Zone) and M Srinivasan(South) managed to get what they wanted but cricket World Cup without Eden Garden Kolkata, is like Wedding party without Groom.