India v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Delhi December 27, 2009

Former players lead criticism of Delhi pitch

Cricinfo staff

Russel Arnold and former Indian captains have reacted with shock and dismay at the dangerous pitch prepared by the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) for the fifth ODI at the Feroz Shah Kotla. The pitch was deemed unfit to play, and the game was called off after 23.3 overs during which Sri Lankan players received body blows more than once.

"Generally when you find bushes of grass on a pitch it is clearly evident it would behave uneven," Arnold, who was part of the commentary team, told Cricinfo. "If the ball hits those areas it could prove to difficult. Like the match referee's report mentioned they did think it was dangerous. They even discussed holding the rest of the game on the adjacent track, but it was under-prepared, with more grass on it. It is just unfortunate and even though it was a dead rubber, Sri Lanka would've like to put a fight. It was a disappointing end to a great series."

A concerned Bishan Singh Bedi put the blame solely on the DDCA. "I wonder how a pitch which was not used even for Ranji Trophy matches was used for the one-dayer," he told PTI. "Action should be taken against them [DDCA] but that is BCCI's job." This was the second international match that the Kotla was hosting in two months, to go with the Champions League T20 immediately before that. A day before the first of these matches, the Australian team came to the ground to train and found that the pitches were wet, and there was no curator around.

On Sunday, from similar lengths on a strip with grassy patches interspersed seamlessly with bald ones, deliveries regularly either reared up alarmingly or scooted through. The first incident of a batsman being struck was during the 10th over, when Tillakaratne Dilshan was hit on the left forearm by a length ball from Ashish Nehra that surprised everyone. Sanath Jayasuriya was rapped thrice by deliveries rising from awkward spots.

Sunil Gavaskar, who was at the venue, said, "There were tufts of grass on the pitch. Playing was dangerous, and physical safety of the players is important. The ball was rising from the good length, which is quite dangerous. Players like Jeff Thomson had the natural ability to bounce the ball, but here it was a different case."

Dilip Vengsarkar, also a former chief selector, said the blame was the BCCI pitch committee's and asked the board to react swiftly. "It is a shameful incident this kind of pitch is prepared for an international match. [The] BCCI pitch committee must be held responsible and [the] DDCA have to answer a lot of questions. [The] BCCI should take quick action, that is important," he said.

"Some deliveries were rearing up even from the good length, which is not good for cricket. [The] DDCA must refund the entire money to the spectators who came to watch good cricket."

The DDCA, meanwhile, has apologised for the fiasco. "[The] DDCA regrets the inconvenience caused to all spectators and others. We offer our apologies to them. All gate tickets will be refunded," Arun Jaitley, DDCA's president, said in a statement. The incident also triggered off crowd trouble as the incensed spectators hurled water bottles and broken chairs into the ground. "The DDCA takes this matter very seriously. We will look into this matter and do all that is required to ensure that such a situation doesn't reoccur," Jaitley said.