BCCI’s decision hurts Bengal’s Ranji campaign

It’s almost end of the road for Bengal in this Ranji Trophy season. Their flickering hopes of making it to the knockout stage now look sealed as the BCCI’s tour and fixtures committee on Tuesday (December 6) decided that the two Ranji Trophy games which had to be abandoned due to heavy smog in New Delhi last month will now stand cancelled.

The fifth-round fixtures involving Gujarat and Bengal at the Feroz Shah Kotla as well as Hyderabad and Tripura at the Karnail Singh Stadium were forced to be called off owing to heavy smog without a ball being bowled. All the four teams have now been given one point each from the cancelled ties. However, of all the four teams, this has hurt Bengal’s chances of qualifying for the last eight the most. With 18 points from seven matches, Bengal will not only need maximum points against Madhya Pradesh, who they are playing in Delhi from Wednesday, but will also have to hope the results of Gujarat (25pts) vs Tamil Nadu (23) and Mumbai (30) vs Punjab (18) matches also go their way.

The timing of the BCCI decision, a day before their last-round match, is also likely to affect Bengal, who were so long having their game plan worked out thinking that they have two more matches on hand.

It has been learnt that Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), which on Monday issued a letter to the board citing clauses in the playing conditions and urging them not to review their previous decision, will send another letter back to the BCCI. “I am aware of the situation. I will be taking up this issue at the appropriate forum with president Anurag Thakur and secretary Ajay Shirke,” CAB president Sourav Ganguly told newspersons on Tuesday.

“We express disappointment over the decision because as per the amended BCCI constitution, rescheduling was technical committee’s and not tournament committee’s prerogative,” CAB joint secretary Avishek Dalmiya stated.

CAB is banking on the page f3 of BCCI’s amended constitution clause F(ii) which states: “The committee shall recommend change if any in the format or schedule of the senior tournaments to the technical committee.”

BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke tried to justify Tuesday’s decision by saying: “There is a little bit of ambiguity but let me ex plain this to you. We went through the entire process, the terms of reference of technical committee specifically do not come into play when the tour nament is on. When the tournament is on, the senior tournament committee takes over and is responsible for adjudicating on any matters pertaining to the conduct of senior tournament. Therefore this matter should have been referred to senior tournament committee, whatever reasons, because of the umpires calling off the match on second day or whether the fog was a natural calamity or not or smog.”

“Since there was some confusion about this, we have now decided to make the rules more explicit so that such situations may not occur in future. Everything is a learning process. This is the first time there was a smog-pollution affected match and, therefore, I think what the senior tournament committee has decided is a fair call in the interest of cricket and within the rules.”

The board initially announced that the technical committee recognised the extraordinary circumstances prevailing in Delhi and decided to reschedule the fifth-round matches. But that claim was refuted by the committee’s chairman Sourav Ganguly himself. “This was not decided by the technical committee,” Ganguly had stated.