Kotla pitch fiasco January 21, 2010

Kotla gets 2010 blackout but WC reprieve

Cricinfo staff

The Feroz Shah Kotla will not host any international match until the end of this year following the ICC's report that the pitch on which the abandoned ODI between India and Sri Lanka was played last month was "dangerous" and should be classified "unfit". The ICC report, released on Thursday after a high-level inquiry, means the Kotla ground will be able to host matches during the 2011 World Cup.

An ICC release said: "Following the conclusion of a full investigation into the circumstances that led to the abandonment of a one-day international match between India and Sri Lanka on 27 December 2009, the ICC confirms that no international cricket will be played at the New Delhi ground until the end of December 2010."

The inquiry, carried out by Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager of cricket, and its chief referee Ranjan Madugalle, corroborated the findings of match referee Alan Hurst as reported at the time. Hurst was reported to have classified the Kotla pitch used in that one-dayer as "unfit", the harshest possible assessment. The match had been called off after 23.3 overs during which Sri Lankan players received several blows due to severely varying bounce.

In today's statement Richardson explained the rationale behind the ban, which the world body arrived at after studying footage of the match, and based on reports from the match referee and the BCCI. "The frequency of the misbehaving deliveries [on average just more than one every three overs] - and the excessive degree of variation - had the potential to inflict serious injury to the batsmen," he said, "and that therefore the pitch that was prepared for the above match was 'dangerous' and should therefore be classified as 'unfit'."

He also pointed out that this was the first time the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch had been rated as unfit and that the ground has a long history of successfully hosting international cricket - and that it was scheduled to host matches at the 2011 World Cup.

The Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) welcomed the decision as the Kotla was not scheduled to host any international matches till December 2010. Chetan Chauhan, the DDCA vice-president and former India Test player, said, "We don't consider this a ban, but officially we can say that the Feroz Shah Kotla has been 'banned'. We are not hosting any matches till the end of December 2010 and we have BCCI's assurance on that."

Chauhan also indicated that the DDCA was already working on improving the track and welcomed the ICC's decision to send its curator to help in the process. "Venkat Sundaram is already working on getting the tracked fixed for the IPL and then after the event gets over we will get assistance from ICC's pitch consultant in further improving the pitch's condition so that we will be ready for the World Cup."

The ICC's chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, was also certain that Delhi would get its act together before the World Cup came along. "We are confident that there is ample time for the necessary remedial work to be carried out ahead of next year's World Cup," he said, "and it is important now that the work should be carried out and domestic cricket played on the pitch to make sure it returns to the standards required for high-level international cricket."

The problem with the Kotla pitch - which has already been relaid four times in the last five years under four different curators - stems from the decision, taken immediately after the second IPL was shifted to South Africa, to relay the entire square. Daljit Singh, the head of the BCCI's grounds and wickets committee until it was disbanded following the ODI debacle, had said in October that it would take a year for the relaid tracks to get seasoned.