January 14, 2002

ECB protests to Indian board about practice facilities


The England and Wales Cricket Board has described the practice facilities currently provided for the tourists in Kolkata as unacceptable.

The England coach, Duncan Fletcher, has complained about the state of the nets provided at the Kolkata Sports and Cricket Club, but Indian officials claimed they would not be treated any differently if they were touring England.

Fletcher is unhappy about the standard of the wickets, lights and the time allotted for practice at the nearby ground.

"It's not the right way to treat an international side who have come out here for an important one-day series because you have to prepare properly for any series," Fletcher said.

"It's dangerous in the nets because if you hit a leg-side shot in the first net, it shoots through to the other net and could take someone out. How can you concentrate when that's going on?

"When you pitch up somewhere you expect decent practice facilities, where they are we don't really care. The wickets have not been conducive to good one-day practice. At the moment you can't play shots you would play in one-day international cricket.

"You're basically playing defensive cricket because the ball's doing too much and the nets were wet yesterday and dangerous. You would expect nice flat wickets so you can practice your cricket and bowlers can learn to bowl on flat wickets."

The ECB's Chief Executive Tim Lamb and Director of Cricket Operations John Carr have been engaged in a lengthy dialogue with their counterparts at the BCCI, secretary Niranjan Shah and president Jagmohan Dalmiya.

They had requested a switch to Eden Gardens, the venue for Saturday's opening one-day international, but a spokesman for the cricket association of Bengal, who maintain Eden Gardens, insisted England would only be allowed a single practice session there as previously scheduled on Tuesday.

"It isn't possible for England to practice there because we're busy preparing Eden Gardens for the one-day international," claimed the spokesman.

"We can only make it available for training as decided earlier. I'm sure if the Indian team had landed for a match at Lord's or some other top Test centre in England, they would not be allowed access to the main arena."

The England camp say they have been given several other reasons why Eden Gardens is unavailable. Fletcher was told it was because of security concerns, but the police claim it would be easier to patrol the team there.

The current problems follow lengthy discussions about the forthcoming one-day series, during which India threatened to withdraw from next summer's final Test at the Oval if England did not agree to play a five-Test series in 2003-4.

England eventually added a further one-day international to the five already scheduled, and switched their warm-up sessions from Mumbai to Kolkata, where the first match was to be played.

It has left England with just one warm-up game and five more days practice before they play the first one-day international in front of an estimated 100,000 crowd on Saturday.

"The home Board has a responsibility for providing good net facilities to visiting teams and there is no excuse for failing to do that," Lamb said.

"It is totally unacceptable to be provided with facilities like this and we have protested strongly to the BCCI and will continue to do so.

"Once we had made the decision to warm-up in Kolkata and then only had eight days to practice, it was obviously very important to be provided with good facilities, and that hasn't happened."