After smog, pollution and an intruder driving onto the pitch, Ranji cricket in Delhi has encountered another strange reason for a delay. Even as overhead conditions aided the scheduled start, Saturday's Delhi-Madhya Pradesh fixture at the Feroze Shah Kotla was delayed for more than two-and-half-hours after Sunil Chauhan, the BCCI's north zone curator, overwatered the surface on the eve of the match. In a breach of protocol, Chauhan then left the venue to take a flight out of Delhi on Saturday morning.
"I agree that what happened at the Kotla today shouldn't have happened but I believe Mr. Chauhan must have had some compelling reasons to have left early," Saba Karim, the BCCI general manager was quoted as saying by Press Trust of India. "He took a 10 am flight from Delhi. Normally, he has never done that, so I would like to believe that there is some reason behind it. We will find out."
As per BCCI's guidelines, neutral curators are required to be present at the venue till at least lunch on the first day, before the local curators take charge. Neutral curators have been appointed to ensure host associations don't doctor pitches to suit the strength of their teams.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the surface prepared for the fixture was crumbly, and hadn't been worked on until a day prior to the fixture, leading to excessive watering. With little sunshine to aid drying on a cold morning, the surface was unfit for play, as found out by match referee Daniel Manohar and officials Virender Sharma and Sanjay Hazare.
Play began after two-and-a-half-hours, and by stumps, Madhya Pradesh were tottering at 132 for 9. The odd ball kept low, while others rose, with spinners Vikas Mishra and Shivam Sharma accounting for all the wickets that fell on the day.