Bengal v Railways, Ranji Trophy, 2nd quarter-final, Kolkata, 3rd day January 10, 2014

Railways warned over ball-change controversy

The third day's play of the Bengal-Railways quarter-final witnessed controversy over a ball change during Bengal's second innings, for which Railways have been issued a warning and face a five-run penalty in case of a repeat offence. The incident took place during the drinks break in the second session when on-field umpires Pashchim Pathak and Suresh Shastri decided to change the ball in the 15th over, after noticing it had been damaged earlier.

The match is being played with the backdrop of a controversial Mankading incident in the league match between these two teams last month that prompted angry statements from both sides.

Rajendra Jadeja, the match referee, said that the call to change the ball was taken by the on-field umpires but there was no official complaint filed. "There were some issues with the ball. The ball was damaged," he said. "The on-field umpires brought the matter to my notice after changing the ball. There was one warning. Since the ball was changed, the matter ended. If there is a second complaint, a five-run penalty will be imposed on Railways and the matter will be referred to the BCCI disciplinary committee."

Abhay Sharma, the Railways coach, denied any knowledge of allegations of tampering and said he had not been informed of the incident by the match referee. "I don't have any knowledge of such an incident, and I have come to know of it now through you [the media]," Sharma said after the day's play. "Nobody has spoken to me about this."

The umpires had spoken to Railways captain Murali Kartik during the drinks break and Sharma was asked what he made of the conversation. "I don't know what the conversation was," Sharma said. "You can only assume things. There is no point in assuming things unless and until it comes to my knowledge."

Sharma suggested that the ball could have been damaged after hitting the iron barricades outside the boundary rope but didn't specifically say it was the reason for the change. "You may not have noticed but there were iron barricades, with sharp ends, around the ground," he said. "The ball may have been damaged after hitting that end."

The matter came to light when Bengal's administrative manager, Debabrata Das, alleged after the day's play that Kartik and the other Railways fielders had been picking at the ball. "Suresh Shastri, the umpire, warned him [Kartik] twice, but he didn't stop and after a while Ashok [Malhotra] and I went to the match referee and told him. The ball was changed after a few more overs."

Rachna Shetty is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo