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29-Dec-2009 02:44:00 GMT
Kotla issues

ICC Talks Tough After Kotla Shame

New Delhi: Delhi could be staring at tough sanctions following Sunday’s abandonment of the final ODI against Sri Lanka because of dangerous playing conditions, though the process could take almost three to four weeks.

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat said on Monday that the world body had already forwarded match referee Alan Hurst’s report on the substandard outfield to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which now has 14 days to explain the situation, via comments from the relevant ground authority, in this case the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).

Once BCCI submits its report, it will be up to ICC general manager (cricket) Dave Richardson and ICC chief referee Ranjan Madugalle to decide if the Kotla is fit to host the four 2011 World Cup matches allotted to it.

"I would not like to speculate on any possible outcome but if yesterday’s (Sunday) incident in Delhi warrants appropriate sanction, we will abide by that," Lorgat said. The ICC, incidentally, has now toughened up the penalties in such cases following the abandonment of the England-West Indies Test in Antigua in March.

On the face of it, though, the Kotla’s fate as an international venue will hinge on a technicality: whether Hurst’s report terms the pitch ‘unfit’ or ‘poor’. If Hurst opts for the latter term, the venue could get away with a $15,000 fine, but if it is the former, the concerned officials could ban the venue for up to two years, then re-inspect it before granting re-accreditation. If a similar incident occurs again within five years, Kotla could even incur a three-year ban.

Although there are grounds for appeal in case the venue’s international status is suspended for a while, under-pressure BCCI officials, who are in the process of setting up a two-member committee to probe the reasons behind the fiasco, are hoping Hurst will tone down his report. That looks unlikely, given that Hurst said on Sunday that "the pitch had extremely variable bounce and was too dangerous for further play". A pitch is rated ‘unfit’ if it is dangerous.

The fact that an ICC inspection team had warned against staging international games at the pitch in November could be also be taken into account, Lorgat clarified. He played down suggestions that the match referee’s extreme views on the pitch would kick off hectic backroom parleying between the influential BCCI and the ICC, or that the a re-inspection of 2011 World Cup venues were in order.

"In this instance, it’s a report that has concerns," hinted Lorgat, "BCCI is a part of the entire process and they would have to abide by the outcome. It’s equal responsibility so no (question of being influenced by clout). Right now, there is no concern over the World Cup pitches and this (Kotla) was one bad experience. It was very unfortunate but India does have quality pitches."

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