The fiasco at New Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla, where the playing surface was deemed too dangerous for play during the fifth ODI between India and Sri Lanka, showed Indian cricket in unflattering light. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) have several uncomfortable questions to answer. Despite curators at the Kotla as well as the BCCI’s pitches committee stating that the wicket square, re-laid after the IPL was shifted to South Africa, required at least a year to settle, the ground hosted the Champions League T20 and an ODI between India and Australia in October. The pitches for both occasions were criticised (although for a different reason — for being low and slow). A damning indictment came in November when an ICC team, inspecting the stadium in connection with the 2011 World Cup, found that the pitch block required further improvement if it were to be acceptable for the match on December 27. Despite the many warning signals, disaster was invited. The question is: are India’s administrators, who proudly proclaim their success at monetising the game, really up to handling cricket’s intricacies?
As is the case with failure, the episode contains significant lessons. Disbanding the centralised pitches committee, as the BCCI has done, seems little more than an exercise in deflecting the blame. The Board would do better by investigating the ICC team’s observation of differences in opinion between the local curators and the centralised committee. Detail is everything in matters as complex as pitch preparation, and the administration must have in charge of the investigation impartial experts aware of the subtleties of the subject. The Board also owes the public an explanation of why it scheduled cricket at the Kotla despite being cautioned against it. Delhi’s future as host of the World Cup is deservedly in jeopardy: should the ICC find the surface “unfit,” which is match referee Alan Hurst’s assessment, Kotla’s international status could be suspended for a period of between 12 and 24 months. But if the ICC’s evaluation finds the surface merely “poor,” a less serious offence, the venue will at most incur a fine not exceeding $15,000. India’s administrators don’t deserve to get off on a technicality. What they do next will be followed closely. Already a dismaying example has been set by the DDCA: association member Kirti Azad walked out of Tuesday’s annual general meeting, alleging he was insulted. It now falls on the BCCI, the world’s richest cricketing body, to show it can act with transparency and accountability, virtues it is rarely credited with.