It is a State that is making some impressive leaps in cricket, with dashing star Sanju Samson sparkling in the Champions League T20 and in the IPL, and promising young men like Sandeep Warrier and Sachin Baby waiting for their big break.
The Kerala Cricket Association is also thinking big. After hosting teams like South Africa, Australia, England and Pakistan with distinction in One-day Internationals, it is now working on making Kochi a Test centre.
But the Duleep Trophy semifinal washout at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium has proved that Kochi has a lot to do before staking its claim for Test matches.
The match offered Harbhajan Singh an opportunity to impress the selectors after about six months out of the Indian team, but all he could do on Monday was check the outfield for himself after the umpires kept telling him about every couple of hours that the ground was still not fit for play. In the end, it turned out to be a match where the groundsmen had more sessions in than the North Zone and East Zone cricketers in the four-day semifinal, which was extended to five days but saw just over two days of action. And the sun was at its brightest best for a major part of the match.
The five-day Duleep Trophy final, between North and South, begins at the same ground on Thursday, and with rain expected every night for the next few days, the KCA has asked other State associations to rush their covers to Kochi.
With Kerala’s four Ranji home matches, in November and December, all allotted to Kochi, the State players are a bit worried too. After the India-Australia ODI was washed out due to heavy rain in October 2010, the KCA had brought a Malaysian company to do the drainage work at the stadium but now it is clear that a lot more needs to be done. “We have not come across a situation like this. We have to study it carefully, scientifically. The problem is not with the drainage but the soil beneath — every time, you dry the outfield, water seems to be seeping in,” said a KCA official. The roof over the stands also does not allow sunshine on one part of the outfield for a few hours thus adding to the problem. The KCA now plans to import a special cover from the US to cover the entire ground. “But it will take about a month to arrive,” said the association official.