SA set to pack for Pune … Not Delhi

Times Media


SA seem set to find themselves packing for Pune – rather than decamping to Delhi – for the last test of their tour to India.

The Ferozeshah Kotla in the capital is, at this stage, where the fourth test is scheduled to be played from December 3. However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have given the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) until Monday to overcome administrative hurdles.

Failure to meet the ultimatum – which will include paying outstanding municipal taxes in order to obtain necessary clearance certificates, which might in any case not be issued because of the Kotla’s claimed non-compliance with fire, safety and stability regulations – would see the match moved to Pune.

South Africans who smell a BCCI plot in all that can rest assured. The lack of certainty will be unsettling for SA, but it has less to do with plans to upset the visitors than with India’s volatile cricket and state politics.

The threat to deny Delhi the test follows the BCCI’s decision to remove their former president, Narayanaswami Srinivasan, as chair of the International Cricket Council over his alleged conflicts of interest.

In similar vein, Ravi Shastri remains India team director but is no longer a member of the Indian Premier League governing council, Roger Binny – father of current player Stuart Binny – has been axed from the national selection panel and Anil Kumble – the co-founder of a sport training and consulting company – has been replaced by Sourav Ganguly as head of the BCCI’s technical committee.

All of which are attempts by the BCCI to show the judicial probe into corruption, which is due to report on its investigation next month, that they are serious about cleaning up their act.

“It is better we do not look back, we should look ahead,” Srinivasan’s successor as BCCI boss, Shashank Manohar, said.

The DDCA are among Indian cricket’s perennial problem children. One of their three bank accounts has been frozen because it was apparently improperly opened and there is reportedly not much money in the other two.

That is the case partly because the BCCI have suspended the DDCA’s annual funding as the latter did not supply balance sheets from 2013-14 until Monday.

None of the above issues are new but the government in Delhi is freshly elected and is clearly in no mood to turn a blind eye as its predecessor did.

“If the test match is allowed to be hosted (at the Kotla) the situation will remain the same and Delhi’s government will not be pressurised to clean up the DDCA,” former Indian player Kirti Azad, now a member of parliament for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said.

The BCCI could also be keen to showcase the news stadium in Pune, one of six grounds they accorded test status on Monday.

This is not the first time controversy has stalked a match at the Kotla involving SA. In their 2011 World Cup match against West Indies at the ground, police refused to allow catering vehicles into the venue because they had not been given them their customary allocation of free tickets.

The police went out of their way to make entrance for fans and workers more difficult than it usually is in a country where food, water, pens, batteries, coins and make-up are among the everyday items routinely confiscated at the stadium gate.

“Ah tol’ ‘em ah don’ eet curry, so ahm bringin’ in mah bluddy sanwitches,” an irked Geoffrey Boycott said at the time in his trademark Yorkshirelease.

Boycott had his sandwiches, and ate them, too.

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