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World Cup 2011

'We aren't to blame for Kolkata debacle' - BCCI

Nagraj Gollapudi

January 27, 2011

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Construction workers remove debris during the renovation of Eden Gardens, Kolkata, January 5, 2011
Renovation work in progress at Eden Gardens earlier this month © AFP
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BCCI president Shashank Manohar has said that the Indian board cannot be blamed for the events that led to the shifting of the World Cup match between India and England at Eden Gardens. The responsibility for organising the World Cup, Manohar said, lay with the ICC. "According to me this (World Cup) is an ICC event," Manohar told ESPNcricinfo. "The venues were selected by ICC. The inspection was made by ICC. The board [BCCI] was not at all involved in this."

Manohar said that the ICC had only informed the BCCI about its decision on Thursday afternoon. "I was informed about the news through an e-mail today afternoon. So finally now that the ICC has told us that the venue is not ready we will give the alternate venue," Manohar said. But was there any kind of assurance the BCCI was offering the thousands of fans, many of whom had finalised their travel and match tickets months in advance? "The game would be played in India," was all Manohar said.

It is understood that the final decision to move the match was arrived at after a conference call between the ICC top brass and Ratnakar Shetty, the World Cup director who was in India. The biggest fear was the supposed casualness of officials at Cricket Association of Bengal [CAB], the host association. An ICC source revealed that the CAB officials "hoped" that the ground could be ready by February 24. "And that, too, they said hopefully. How can one allow that two days before a World Cup match," the official wondered.

According to him the CAB officials displayed a high-handed approach when the ICC team was checking for specifics on match operations, tickets and hospitality. "Their only interest was to know if they were going to be given the nod to host the matches," the official said. When the CAB was informed that the inspection team did not have the right to take a final call, it did not sit well with the local officials.

Some of the things the ICC panel was interested in knowing was the location of the corporate boxes for the event sponsors and the ICC officials and guests. That was a big concern because sponsors get a certain number of tickets as part of their contractual obligations with the ICC.

According to one event organising committee member, whenever the ICC conducts an event it normally signs a contract with regards to tickets and related matters with the member board. But this time the BCCI has allowed the staging associations at the eight Indian venues to deal with the issue which is proving to be a hurdle.

The other question about whether Kolkata would remain the host for the rest of the three group matches involving South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Kenya and Netherlands still hangs in balance. "The ICC will inspect the venue on January 31 and take a decision by February 1 as to whether it would be possible to host the other three games," Manohar said. "Otherwise three alternate venues will need to be found."

Earlier in the day the ICC decided to strip Kolkata as the venue for the February 27 match between India and England, one of the few marquee contests during the month-long group stage. The decision came as a surprise to many because only a couple of days ago, Shetty had asserted that there were no concerns with regards to any of the 13 venues. Shetty was addressing the media after the final inspection of the Eden Gardens on January 25.

But ICC sources have indicated that the six-man ICC panel - comprising Eugene Vanvueren (ICC stadium consultant) , Campbell Jameson (ICC general manager, commercial), Chris Tetley (ICC event manager), Suru Nayak (tournament director, India), Dhiraj Malhotra (ICC tournament director) and Shetty - had expressed disappointment about the progress of the stadium's readiness.

Meanwhile there was no clarity yet on the tickets that have been sold. According to Manohar it is the ICC which needs to decide on the matter. However, the ICC is far from finding a solution at the moment. "The tournament director is trying to work out a strategy on the tickets issue," the tournament official said. "We are not sure if refunds should be granted or tickets that have been already bought can be allowed to swap at the new venue."

According to Shirley Rattray, manager of Cricket Logistics, the ICC's official tour partner, the most pressing issue is for a rapid decision to be reached on the new venue, so that flights and accommodation can be rebooked for the thousands of spectators who are planning their itineraries around the fixture.

"England v India is the biggest game of all the group games," Rattray told ESPNcricinfo. "It was the most popular because Eden Gardens is such an iconic venue to watch cricket. A match there is regarded as one of the sporting things to do before you die, so it's a big shame that the game has had to be moved.

"Reallocating the tickets is one thing, but moving the flights and accommodation is another," Rattray added. "But as soon as we know what venue we've got, then we can get our ground handlers on the case to put it into place. It's never easy when things like this happen, but it will get done. That's the way things work in India, things can be turned around at the last minute very quickly."

For those fans travelling independently, however, their money may already be down the drain. "This is the only match I'd actually bought tickets for in advance, because the interest is so high," said Emily Crick, an England supporter who has made five previous tours of India. "I've also bought a flight from Kolkata down to Chennai so I doubt I'll get a refund on that, and whatever venue they choose, it will only be half the capacity, so most of the people who booked won't be able to get seats anyway."

Additional reporting by Andrew Miller

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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