No immediate decision on Kotla's WC status - ICC
Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief executive, has said any penalty on the Feroz Shah Kotla for Sunday's pitch fiasco that forced the abandonment of the fifth ODI between India and Sri Lanka will come only after completion of a thorough investigation and the prescribed monitoring process. Delhi, he said, can still retain hope of hosting the 2011 World Cup matches.
"It is not fair to say it hangs in the balance because you cannot comment till you know what the facts are," Lorgat told Cricinfo minutes after landing in New Delhi, where he will be presenting the ICC mace to the Indian captain MS Dhoni on Sunday evening for becoming the world's No.1 Test team.
Play was stopped after 23.3 overs into the Sri Lankan innings when the match referee Alan Hurst, in consultation with the on-field umpiring pair of Shahvir Tarapore and Marais Erasmus, deemed the pitch to be "dangerous" due to its "extremely variable bounce". Dhoni and Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankan captain, were involved in the lengthy discussions too, before the final decision was made.
Lorgat said Hurst's report will now be tabled as part of the pitch and outfield monitoring process. In the step-by-step guidelines provided by the ICC for pitch monitoring process, if the referee points out that the pitch and/or the outfield was substandard, the ICC will write to the concerned home board along with the referee's report asking for a detailed explanation. This will be sent within five days of the ICC receiving the referee's report, after which the home board has 14 days to reply.
The referee's report and the home board's reply will then be passed to the ICC's General Manager (Cricket) Dave Richardson and its Chief Referee Ranjan Madugalle. The duo will study the evidence, which would also include the video of the match. If they are convinced that the pitch and/or the outfield was substandard then they will impose the appropriate ban.
"It is too early to conclude," Lorgat told a press conference. "You must wait for the process to take its course. It will take five days for the match referee and the chief referee to discuss the issue and then BCCI would be given a notice to respond in 14 days. Then it depends on Madugalle to prepare the final report which would take about 10 to 14 days. So, it would be fair to say that it would take about a month's time to complete the entire process. But his is not the final word on the time schedule for the process."
The range of penalty can vary from getting away with a warning, to withdrawal or suspension, for a period of time, of international match status from the venue for repeat offences. Surely, on the basis of the evidence today it is highly unlikely the matter would be treated leniently.
Only recently, the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) was under fire for producing low-scoring pitches during the Champions Twenty20 League. In fact, if the pitch is deemed to be unfit then the ICC's code of conduct for poor pitches states that a first such breach should be met with "a suspension of the venue's international status for a period of between 12 and 24 months together with a directive for appropriate remedial action and the need for prior ICC re-accreditation as an international venue".
Delhi is scheduled to host four group games in the 2011 World Cup, and the authorities concerned, including the BCCI, will be embarrassed by today's episode. In fact, realising the importance of the matter, in a swift action the BCCI dissolved the five-member Grounds and Pitches Committee, headed by Daljit Singh, with immediate effect. Dhiraj Parsana (West), TR Viswanathan (South), Rajiv Gokhale (Central) and Rutul Das (East) were the other members on the committee.
Lorgat said it was too early to predict New Delhi's fate for the World Cup. "We can't jump to conclusions," Lorgat said. "It would be inappropriate and unfair - we need to understand exactly what the fact of the matter is and then it must take its course."
The latest episode is another blotch on New Delhi's reputation as a host of international sporting events. It was only a week ago when the Commonwealth Games chief said they could only pray that the venues would be ready in time for the games, between October 4-13 next year.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo