Government intervention delays Himachal match in Dharamsala
Political rivalry spilled over to the field of play in Himachal Pradesh, resulting in the first two sessions of the home team's Ranji Trophy Group C opener against Goa not happening at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala.
Following BCCI intervention, the stadium was made available to HPCA in the afternoon and the match began only after tea. The officials decided to add an extra hour's play every day in order to make up for lost time. However, with the sun setting early in the hill town, the lost time may adversely impact either team.
Both the teams woke up to the news of the HPCA stadium having been seized by the state government. It emerged that in a sudden move, the state ministers' cabinet had reportedly decided to cancel the lease of lands allotted to HPCA, headed by Anurag Thakur, a member of parliament from opposition party who is also a son of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
"We were surprised to know that around midnight, the state government officials had taken over all the properties of the HPCA. They seized all our properties without serving us any notice, so the match couldn't start on time," Vishal Marwaha, HPCA secretary, told ESPNcricinfo.
While the teams awaited an official word, Thakur, also a BCCI joint-secretary, swung into action. Eventually, the cabinet decision was put on hold for a while. "We [BCCI] held discussions with the concerned ministers in the Himachal Pradesh state government and sorted out the problems. We have been assured that no other match will be affected in Dharamsala till the end of the season," Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI general manager - game development, said.
HPCA and the state government have been at loggerheads for a while, since it had been noticed that the association was registered as a company - as opposed to a trust, as it was earlier - after Thakur took charge. Besides, the state government has alleged that the five-star hotel constructed by HPCA close to the stadium has flouted norms. According to PTI, chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Sunday demanded a fresh election at HPCA, accusing HPCA having become Dhumal's family concern.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo