Railways-MP Ranji match shifted after pitch fiasco

- December 24, 2022
| By : Khurram Habib |

The pitch at Karnail Singh Stadium where the Railways-Punjab Ranji match was suspended and restarted has been deemed unfit for the next match. Ranji may return to the venue in later rounds

A decade back, in 2012, the venue was banned by BCCI for poor pitch.

Railways’ next Ranji Trophy match, against Madhya Pradesh (MP), has been turned into an away fixture with Indore set to host the tie after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took note of the pitch fiasco that led to the suspension and replay of host Railways’ previous tie against Punjab after the second day at the Karnail Singh Stadium.

The upcoming match was originally scheduled to be played at the historic venue in the Capital but it has now emerged that the BCCI has shifted it to MP’s home venue.

“Yes, the match has shifted to Indore. There has been a mail to the effect. The Board has given time to the Railways authorities to sort out Karnail Singh Stadium pitch for the two remaining games here after the December 26-29 tie,” Rakesh Mehrotra, the Railways curator, told Patriot.

The Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) has already started preparations for the match.

The December 20-23 tie that ended on Friday had to be restarted on the third day on a fresh pitch after 24 wickets had fallen over the first two days due to inconsistent bounce on the original pitch which is said to have had 4 mm grass.

The ball behaved awkwardly, rising awkwardly at times.

Railways opener Arindam Sarkar injured his finger on Day 1 and will miss the next match.

This isn’t the first time that Railways has come under fire for a poor pitch at home venue. A decade back, in 2012, the venue was banned by BCCI for poor pitch.

However, the pitch being dangerous this time was quite surprising as the preparation was supervised by neutral curator SB Singh, who had come from Ranchi, as per BCCI norms.

“I wasn’t that keen on giving so much grass especially in this cold weather, but since it was the BCCI curator, he had the final say. He was here for a week,” added Mehrotra, the official Railways pitch curator at the Karnail Singh Stadium.

Punjab were dismissed for 162 in the first innings while Railways were all out for 150 in their turn. Punjab then were 18/4 in their second innings on the second day after lunch before the decision to suspend the game was made.

The match eventually restarted on Day 3 post-lunch on a fresh pitch that took five hours to prepare in the morning and Railways were dismissed for a paltry 102 in their first innings. Punjab made 152/6 before declaring, taking a crucial first innings lead that earned them three points. Railways finished with 49/0 in second essay.

There was still some uneven bounce on Day 3 but it settled down on the last day.

Late on Thursday night, the BCCI had flown down senior curator Taposh Chatterjee to the Capital to oversee preparation of the pitch for the Railways-Madhya Pradesh match scheduled to begin December 26.

However, it has been learnt that Chatterjee – who is head curator for Central Zone under which Railways cricket comes – wasn’t happy with the levelling of the pitch and therefore a decision to shift the game to Indore’s Holkar stadium was made.

The match referee had waited for a couple of days to arrive at the decision to suspend the match.

Daljit Singh, former head of the BCCI pitches and grounds committee, told Patriot, “There is a form, which details how a pitch should progress on various days – Day 1, Day 2 etc. There is a provision that allows the match to restart.”

However, there has been criticism from various quarters on why referee Youraj Singh delayed the decision to suspend and restart when it was clear the pitch was unfit on Day 1.

Ex-cricketer Venkat Sundaram, who has also served as curator of the Ferozeshah Kotla in the past, said that the match should have been stopped on first day when it was clear that a Railways player – Sarkar – had been injured.

Sundaram said that there is nothing wrong with giving 4 mm grass but the problem arises with watering.

“Pacy wicket is fine but it should not be dangerous. There is nothing wrong with 4 mm grass. Pitches in New Zealand, South Africa and England have up to 12 mm grass. But you must make it in a way that the moisture should dry out by lunch or tea on Day 1,” said Sundaram.

Going by what experts like Sundaram are saying, it appears that the pitch was watered but the water couldn’t dry out at the right time.

“It is winters in Delhi. It is bright but not hot. You have to be careful how much water you put. The pitch should be ready one day before the match. In fact, in this weather, the pitch should have been prepared two days before the match,” he added.

Another experienced curator, who did not want to be named said that it is not just the BCCI curator SB Singh but also the match referee and umpires, who are in a soup.

“Why did they have to wait for the second day when Punjab were struggling. They didn’t take notice when Sarkar got injured and when Punjab had taken a slender 12-run lead. They reacted only when Punjab, a strong association, were 18/4 in second innings and staring at defeat,” he said.

Referee Singh and the umpires Kuppuraj Madanagopal and Rajeev Godara, however, gave thumbs-up to Mehrotra for preparing the fresh wicket on which the match restarted.

The letter, signed by the trio, a copy of which is with Patriot

“Mr Rakesh Mehrotra, curator Indian Railways. This is with regards to the sheer knowledge and hard work which has enabled us to conduct a game for 2 days i.e, Ranji Trophy (Railways vs Punjab) held at Karnail Singh Stadium inspite of all the challenges and at a very short notice he has used all his expertise and provided us a sporting wicket. He deserves lot of appreciation for his excellent work. We wish him best of luck for all his future endeavours,” the letter states

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