After a bizarre 23.3 overs, the fifth India-Sri Lanka ODI at the Feroz Shah Kotla was called off because the pitch was deemed unfit and dangerous to play on. The re-laid wicket had patches on grass on it, and was described by Sunil Gavaskar as a ‘hair transplant.’ It offered uneven and unpredictable bounce irrespective of the length of the delivery.
The Lankan batsmen had a torrid time coping with the awkward bounce. Tillakaratne Dilshan was struck on his left arm and needed treatment.
Sanath Jayasuriya received blows on his shoulder, elbows and fingers, but it took a delivery from Sudeep Tyagi that kicked off the pitch remarkably high from a good length, for skipper Kumar Sangakkara to decide to halt proceedings.
Thilina Kandamby, the batsman, was concerned as well.
The captains M.S. Dhoni and Sangakkara, umpires S.K. Tarapore and M. Erasmus, and then match referee Alan Hurst convened to discuss if the pitch’s condition was fit to continue the match.
The players soon left the field, and there were further discussions among the umpires, the match referee, curator Vijay Bahadur Mishra, BCCI Pitches Committee head Daljit Singh and Delhi District Cricket Association officials, before the match was abandoned. Play was stopped at 11.20 a.m., and was officially abandoned at 12.30 p.m.
Irate fans had meanwhile flung bottles, seat covers and chairs on to the ground, and took their frustrations out on advertisement boards. The fans had just warmed up to a good Indian performance, when play was stopped.
The Kotla had issued its welcome with news that Sachin Tendulkar would be rested, a twisted wicket, questionable visibility and chilly conditions. The start was delayed by 15 minutes, and on the very first ball, Upul Tharanga froze in a forward defensive trance to a beautiful delivery from Zaheer Khan, for the ball to find the stumps.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya were then left to contend with the vagaries of the pitches. Wickets then fell to the bounce, movement, and the bowling of Zaheer and debutant Sudeep Tyagi. Harbhajan Singh managed the dismissal of Jayasuriya.
Dhoni keeps well
Dhoni was tested severely behind the stumps. The ball rose sharply and kept low in equal measure, and the skipper did well not to give away byes. The ground had previously hosted the India-Australia ODI on October 31, and the Champions League before that, on slow and low tracks. More work was done on the wicket for Sunday’s ODI.
The previous instance of a One-Day International being abandoned because of unfit pitch conditions was at Indore in 1997. The India-Sri Lanka game was abandoned after just three overs when Roshan Mahanama was hit on his knuckles.
The ICC has strict laws regarding such situations. According to its Code of Conduct regarding poor pitches, the first such breach should be met with “a suspension of the venue’s international status for a period of between 12 and 24 months together with a directive for appropriate remedial action and the need for prior ICC re-accreditation as an international venue.”