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Rain brings pain at Eden

By Prem Panicker
February 08, 2007 21:03 IST
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Close to 100,000 spectators began coming in, from around 11 am onwards. By two, Eden Gardens was packed; the crowd was in holiday mood, refusing to let even a trademark Sanath Jayasuriya blast dim their enthusiasm, or lower their decibel levels.

And then the rains came down -- hard enough to create kiddy-sized swimming pools at various points across the ground.

The crowd patiently sat through it all; it sat agog through various 'pitch inspections' (talk of charades - what point inspecting a pitch, when the umpires were walking boot-deep in slush to get to the middle?) and, when they finally called play off at 8.30 pm (to my estimation, at least three hours after it was painfully apparent no play was possible), they took even that disappointment cheerfully, raised a few hurrahs for the team and for their own 'Dada', and are now busy trooping out through the turnstiles and finding their way home.

Kudos to them -- but if I was there, I would have been tempted to let fly a 'boo' at the BCCI. Make that two, for as many reasons.

Remember the original schedule of this tournament? The lung-opener was supposed to have been held in Pune. It was shifted to Kolkatta not for cricketing reasons, but because BCCI boss Sharad Pawar wanted to reward the Cricket Association of Bengal for toeing the official line and dumping Jagmohan Dalmiya from its ranks.

And down came the rains.

I am not suggesting this is divine retribution for having fallen foul of Dalmiya; merely, that this was a disaster waiting to happen. Anyone who read the weather forecasts even two days ago -- when neither team had even arrived in Kolkatta -- knew sizeable amounts of rain was forecast.

But then, playing politics is more important than playing cricket; who gives a damn for the crowd that paid its hard-earned money to watch 18 overs, an hour of rain, and several hours of "pitch inspections"?

That brings me to my second grouse: why do the authorities insist on keeping crowds in the stadia, long past the point where the sensible, even humane, course would be to send them home? (The short answer of course is, so they don't have to refund the money).

For instance, the last inspection was scheduled for 8.30 pm. To what purpose? Assume, at that point, that the umpires deemed that play could begin. What then? How many overs could you have played?

At best, 25 overs a side, right?

What kind of contest would that have been? Sri Lanka batted with 50 overs in mind; after playing 18.3 overs, were you going to tell them they had only 6.3 overs to go -- while the Indian team would have had the advantage of knowing, from the start, that they were playing 25 overs and hence could throw their bats around from the get-go?

How fair would that have been as a contest?

So then, the charade of "inspecting" the pitch every hour or so was unfair to the teams; it was unfair to the spectators.

Ah, but I forget: the point of cricket, at least in India, is not the players, not the teams, and certainly not the spectators. The BCCI made money, the CAB made money, so quit cribbing, people.

Seriously: what do you think? Should there not be the provision for games to be called off at the point where it is plainly impossible to play? Should spectators not be given partial, if not full, refunds?

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Prem Panicker

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