At a time when India's international cricketers are increasingly feted, the plight of players in the domestic game doesn't seem to have improved. Members of the Services team, currently playing the Vijay Hazare Trophy in Una district in Himachal Pradesh, have spoken to Cricinfo - on condition of anonymity - about the poor playing and staying conditions. While some of the problems are common to smalltown India, concerns over the playing conditions - which officials from the staging association concede to - should raise eyebrows given that this is the premier domestic one-day tournament.
The problems for the Services squad began when they landed in Una on February 14 and found they had no place to stay - there was no hotel booked by the Una District Cricket Association (UDCA). "It was mismanagement," Rajkumar, the general secretary, admitted. "We had asked for a hotel to be booked from February 13 but the hotel manager had booked it from February 15, so we had to shift the players to another hotel."
That, too, presented problems as the initial plan was to split up the squad into several hotels. Once the players refused, threatening to complain to the BCCI, they were put up in one hotel."
That hotel - where they are currently staying - is 15 km outside Una, and suffers frequent power cuts but doesn't have a back-up generator. "The lights have gone out for the last two hours; it came in between and went again. And we have a game tomorrow," one player said.
At the ground, the Jawaharlal Navoday Vidhyalay Stadium, the outfield was bumpy, the make-shift sightscreen - made from tent material - collapsed during the first game against Himachal Pradesh, leading to a 20-minute disruption in play, and the dressing rooms too were tents, partitioned for the two teams. "It was horrible," a Services player said. "It was like we had gone to some village to play cricket. We don't feel that we are playing in a BCCI-sponsored tournament. Someone can get badly hurt on this ground."
The UDCA said it had to use this ground as the Amtar ground at Navdaung was not ready in time. Daljit Singh, head of the BCCI's Ground and Pitches Committee, made two visits to Amtar before the tournament, and eventually asked the local association to shift the games. There are three grounds in the area and Singh said the tight schedule didn't leave them with any other option but to include the Una ground on the schedule.
"There were15 matches to be played in eight days," Singh said. "So there was no other option but to play in Navoday Vidhyalay also. Five games in each of the three grounds. I made sure the pitch would be good for the game; we had the equipment shifted out of Dharamsala and it was done. Unfortunately, the outfield was poor and things couldn't be changed overnight in this hilly area by the local authorities."
He said he would return to Una on Thursday to re-assess the conditions. "I had told them that since it was their problem and responsibility, the local team, Himachal Pradesh, should take the onus of playing more games on this ground."
Meanwhile, more trouble broke out in the ground. BCCI stipulates that every domestic game should be recorded on camera but they couldn't do it in the first game. The administrators didn't realise that they had to erect 15-feet structures around the ground for the cameras to be placed. "We didn't know what exactly was required from the camera people," Rajkumar said. "But we did it after the first game and the next game was recorded."