The BCCI has said the Ranji Trophy match between Odisha and Jharkhand scheduled to begin from December 7 in Natham, near Dindigul, will be rescheduled after the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association communicated its inability to host the game, owing to the week-long mourning period in the state following the death of chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Monday. Although the BCCI is yet to finalise date and venue for the match, it is understood the Thiruvananthapuram is likely to host the game from December 15.
The board’s senior tournament committee also revoked the decision to reschedule the two games – the Group A fixture between Bengal, and Gujarat and the Group C game featuring Hyderabad and Tripura – which were abandoned in Delhi due to smog and pollution. All the four teams will now be awarded one point each. BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke, however, didn’t clarify if the fixtures for the knockout games, which were postponed after the rescheduling, would be advanced.
The decision to shift the Odisha-Jharkhand game out of Natham came after TNCA secretary Kasi Viswanathan apprised the BCCI of the situation in Tamil Nadu after Jayalalithaa’s death late on Monday night. Shirke confirmed the game would be held at a different venue after a few days.
“There will be a gap of a couple of days because the alternate venue has to prepare wickets,” he told reporters in Mumbai after a meeting of the senior tournament committee. “We are not even sure whether we will be able to move the boys out in the given time because the locals [in Dindigul] have advised us to keep them indoors today.”
Baroda Cricket Association joint-secretary Snehal Parikh, who chaired the meeting of the senior tournament committee in the absence of an indisposed Gautam Roy, said the decision to go back on the rescheduling of matches affected by smog was made after reviewing the rules and regulations of the BCCI and the playing conditions.
“This was an extraordinary situation. Such situations can keep coming, but you can’t continue prolonging the tournament,” he said. “In a situation where points also matter, looking at the playing conditions, one point each was given.”
The original decision to reschedule the games had led to protests from the Mumbai Cricket Association and the TNCA, who said it would give those teams an “unfair advantage” to qualify for the knockouts. The TNCA referred to the BCCI’s press release that stated the decision was made by the technical committee, and contended it wasn’t empowered to reschedule the games.
However, Sourav Ganguly, the chairman of the board’s technical committee, said his committee hadn’t made the decision. Shirke, for his part,said the problem arose because the match referees (P Ranganathan for the Gujarat-Bengal game, and Sanjay Sharma for the match between Hyderabad and Tripura) didn’t wait to go into day three and day four before calling the games off. He admitted to a “little bit of ambiguity” in the entire episode, and that the board had now decided to make the rules clearer.
“The terms of reference of the technical committee specifically do not come into play when the tournament is on,” Shirke said. “When the tournament is on, the senior tournament committee takes over and is responsible for adjudicating on any matters pertaining to the conduct of the senior tournaments. Therefore, this matter should have been referred to the senior tournament committee.
“For whatever reasons – because of the umpires calling off the match on day two, or maybe because the smog was a natural calamity – there was some confusion. We have also now decided to make the rules more explicit, so that such situations may not occur in the future. Everything is a learning process. This is the first time there was a smog-affected match, and therefore the senior tournament committee has decided it’s a fair call in the interest of cricket and given the rules.”
When asked if he was misinformed on the rules before signing off on the original decision to reschedule the games, Shirke said: “Whether I was misinformed [or not], there is no need to do any public prosecution of BCCI employees. We will answer questions pertaining to the decisions, not the processes employed by the BCCI.”
The decision to not re-play the matches came despite the Cricket Association of Bengal’s (CAB) letter to the BCCI, requesting it to go ahead with the rescheduled games. Following the BCCI’s announcement, Ganguly, in his capacity as CAB president, said he would take the matter up with the Indian board. He also said that he had told the Bengal players to not let the news get to them ahead of their next Ranji match.
“I will be taking up this issue at the appropriate forum with president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke,” Ganguly said, according to PTI. “And I have told the boys that they should just focus on the match and not think about anything else. Their goal should be to win the match.”
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun
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