Delhi in danger of losing World T20 semi-final
Strong concerns have resurfaced about Delhi hosting the first semi-final of the World Twenty20, scheduled for March 30.
It is understood that both the ICC and BCCI are worried that the DDCA is being forced to not allow ticket sales to the RP Mehra Block, which was the old club house at the Feroz Shah Kotla, meaning nearly 1800 seats will be empty. There is also the concern that no hoardings are allowed to be displayed in front of the stands. Those restrictions were put in place by the DelhI High Court recently while issuing clearances for the DDCA to host World T20 matches.
A final decision is likely to be reached in the next day or two, with the ICC and BCCI also discussing alternate venues to host the game.
An official involved in the organisation of the World T20 admitted that there had been "ongoing discussions" over shifting the Delhi semi-final to another venue. The biggest worry, as far as the ICC is concerned, is the prospect of playing the Delhi matches in front of an empty stand.
"Because of the order of the court no ticket can be sold. It is embarrassing to have an empty stadium particularly when you are hosting a global tournament and all the world is watching you," the official said.
Another stumbling block for the BCCI and ICC is the fate of the other games in Delhi, should the semi-final be shifted.
"Should the matches on 26th (England v Sri Lanka) and 28th (South Africa v Sri Lanka) be moved also? What happens if one of the teams playing in Delhi on March 28 qualifies for the semis?" the official asked.
Even if the semi-final is moved after numerous logistical obstacles, it is likely that if a team is already playing in Delhi, they would be against travelling to another venue just a day before such a big game.
The ICC is also not helped by the fact that it has not yet gotten the clearance to erect hoardings in front of the Mehra Block. Justice Mukul Mudgal, who was appointed as the DDCA's man in charge for the World T20, has reportedly refused to allow the ICC to erect any hoardings inside the stadium after the Archaeological Survey of India called one of the buildings housed in the block as illegal.
However, a senior DDCA official indicated that Mudgal had not given any directive. According to the official, what made matters worse was the court did not make it clear whether any permission was needed from the south Delhi municipal corporation in order to make the Mehra Block freed for the public.
On Friday, as a last resort, the DDCA approached the Supreme Court to intervene. Chief Justice TS Thakur, who is also hearing the Lodha Committee hearing, deferred the Delhi hearing to March 28. "Their question of shifting the matches is being debated at this stage," the DDCA official said.
Even before the tournament began, there had been doubts for months over Delhi's ability to host matches in the World T20. Eventually, after extending multiple deadlines to get the requisite clearances from both the Delhi government as well as the civic agencies, the BCCI gave DDCA the nod. In the past few years, these agencies had pulled the DDCA into the courts, which granted ad-hoc clearances.
Such a scenario has hurt the ICC and BCCI dearly, as they were unable to announce the final tournament schedule well in advance as is the norm. It also did not help global fans as the BCCI delayed the ticketing process till the eve of the tournament.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo