India v Sri Lanka, 2st Test, Delhi December 7, 2005

Play likely in far from fire-proof Kotla


Not enough extinguishers and fire alarms but Feroz Shah Kotla might still host the second Test © Getty Images

The Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) might once again get away with the delay in renovation of the Ferozeshah Kotla as the Delhi government is likely to give a provisional No Objection Certificate (NOC) for holding the India-Sri Lanka Test from December 10 to 14.

Serious problems exist, particularly regarding measures to deal with emergencies. While the police and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) have given the NOC, it is subject to the Fire Department giving the go-ahead.

The Fire Department is apparently reluctant to give the DDCA the green signal. During an inspection of the stadium yesterday, they found that there were not enough extinguishers and fire alarms. More importantly, the pumps for the fire extinguishers did not have the required pressure. The department had given the clearance for the India-Pakistan one-dayer in April as an exception and as a special consideration.

But the arguments of Arun Jaitley, the DDCA president and former federal minister, may just have convinced Sheila Dikshit, the Delhi chief minister, and her entourage, who visited the Kotla today, to make an exception for one more time.

Jaitley, Dikshit and officials of the MCD, fire and police departments held an animated discussion right in the middle of the ground and before the assembled media, after which Dikshit said: "There are some concerns. They have to yet get the NOC from the Fire Department... [but] not much crowd is expected for a five-day match. We have to see that the match is not cancelled but at the same time safety measures are also met ... The DDCA has 96 hours to try and meet the minimum requirements." She hoped everything would be in place by the time the ground hosts England for a Test match early next year.

Jaitley said with a "little co-operation" from the state officials the match should go ahead without any problems. When a television journalist queried about the renovation work - the work started in late 2003 and continues with only half the stadium's capacity available at the moment - Jaitley's reply was typically withering: "Unfortunately, it takes two to three years to construct a stadium. It is not like a television programme that can be produced in 1-1/2 hours."