Ranji Trophy Plate League 2009-10 November 4, 2009

BCCI unmoved on Services ban

Cricinfo staff

The BCCI has said it will stand by its decision to ban Services from this year's Ranji Trophy despite mounting pressure from various sections of the Indian government. The ban was imposed on Tuesday after Services, which is run by the national defence ministry, skipped a Plate League match against Jammu and Kashmir in security-sensitive Srinagar.

P Chidambaram, India's home minister, on Wednesday said the BCCI should allot fresh dates for the match and accept an apology from the team, who claimed, late on Tuesday, that their absence at the venue early that day was due to an administrative slip-up.

Deputy defence minister M Pallam Raju called the Services decision to stay away "unfortunate" and said it had been taken at a lower level. He reiterated an offer to play on fresh dates in Srinagar if the BCCI revoked its decision.

That, however, looks unlikely at the moment. A senior BCCI official said the decision was based on the Indian board's rules and regulations governing domestic cricket and cannot be changed. "We are aware that there have been appeals at various levels to accept the apology and reschedule the match," a senior BCCI official told Cricinfo. "But the decison to ban Services was taken as per established rules, and there is no change in our position on the issue."

It remains to be seen though whether the BCCI is able to resist political pressure on the issue for long considering the connections of some its key office-bearers. For instance, Sharad Pawar, the ICC vice-president and former BCCI president, still enjoys a commanding sway over Indian cricket matters and is also a senior federal minister in the coalition government.

Chidambaram's appeal to the BCCI came after the team's pullout - ostensibly due to security reasons - was seen as a huge embarrassment for the government, which has maintained that they were in control of the security situation in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, that has seen continued militant activity over the last two decades. Chidambaram added that he had also spoken to AK Antony, India's defence minister, on the matter.

Meanwhile, local media reports have claimed that Services pulled out after receiving information of a possible disruption of the match by separatist protesters in the state. But apart from the apology that was issued in the form of a press release, the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB), which manages the team of defence employees, is yet to publicly clarify their position.