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28-Dec-2009 09:24:00 GMT
India vs Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, New Delhi

Kotla May Face WC Ban After Pitch Fiasco

New Delhi: The cancellation of the fifth ODI between India and Sri Lanka on Sunday due to unplayable pitch conditions has put a big question mark on the four games the Ferozeshah Kotla is scheduled to host for the 2011 World Cup.

Since the match referee, Alan Hurst, termed the Kotla pitch "too dangerous" for play in his statement on Sunday, an International Cricket Council (ICC) official indicated that there was an enhanced likelihood of a censure or ban stretching up to 12 months for the Kotla.

In that scenario, the matches scheduled here for the big 2011 event - South Africa vs West Indies on Feb 24, Netherlands vs West Indies on Feb 28, Canada vs Kenya on Mar 7 and India vs Netherlands on Mar 9 - may have to be relocated. That would leave Delhi completely out of the biggest cricket carnival to be held here since the 1996 World Cup. Already, former cricketers are calling for Delhi to be "blacklisted", and now that the unthinkable has happened, the onus is on the ICC to take any step it deems fit.

The world body’s pitch monitoring process guidelines say that following the tabling of a report on a substandard pitch, the ICC will write to the concerned home board within 5 days, asking for a detailed explanation within 14 days. The BCCI’s report, when it is provided, will then be referred to the general manager (cricket) Dave Richardson and ICC chief referee Ranjan Madugalle, now in Australia. They will then study the evidence and take appropriate action, with the ICC’s code of conduct allowing for a suspension ranging from 12 to 24 months.

Though ICC CEO Haroon Lorgat’s observation to a website on Sunday that "it is too early to comment on the status of the Kotla’s World Cup games" is technically correct, it seems highly unlikely that the venue will get away with a soft reprimand, given the controversy over poor pitches raging here since the T20 Champions League.

In fact, the BCCI, and Madugalle and Richardson, will have the ICC’s own previous internal assessments to explain as well: A venue evaluation report undertaken at the Kotla on November 4 was scathing in its observation of the Kotla pitch. The document, a copy of which is in TOI’s possession, even raises doubts about the venue’s ability to host the World Cup games. It states: "The ICC has important issues with the present condition of the playing surface that is essential to address prior to the 2011 World Cup. It’s clear to see that surface levels need to be readjusted and the surface is mostly devoid of grass."

Did this report lead to the hasty attempts to plant some grass and level the surface, attempts which led to Sunday’s disaster? The report also advises against replanting or reseeding the pitches - an advice the DDCA did not heed - and complains about the local curator’s "variance" with BCCI pitch consultant Daljit Singh.

"To simply replant without major renovation of the surface would be a major miscalculation. It would lead to pitches being slow, spongy and would tend to generate low, inconsistent bounce," the report said.

Given Sunday’s colossal mistake, it would seem the DDCA, and in turn the BCCI, will have a lot of explaining to do to evade a serious ban.

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