Cuttack match stares at washout

Cuttack match stares at washout

Nothing can sap the morale of a sportsman, especially a cricketer, than the sight of rain. In a sport where extraneous factors play as critical a role as any other aspect, a hostile weather isn’t a good news. And the news from here is that the fifth match between India and Australia is as good as abandoned.

Odisha has been receiving incessant rain following cyclone Phailin and the conditions at the Barabati Stadium, the venue of the fifth game, are not conducive for play. To state that outfield is damp would be an understatement. The heavy underfoot conditions -- an entire ankle will sink into the water-clogged ground – are unlikely to see any improvement as it continued to rain through Friday and there has been no sign of sun light in the last five days.

The organisers released a statement, detailing their intended efforts to get the match started – including using helicopters to dry the ground – but just fell short of saying that the tie would be called off. “The ground is completely water-logged and the chances of its drying up are extremely remote. The pitch is safe but the outfield might cause harm to the fielders,” the release stated.

While the Indians had an indoor practice session, Australians stayed back at team hotel in Bhubneshwar and their star all-rounder Shane Watson had little hopes of match taking place. “It doesn't look good at the moment, that's for sure,” Watson said. “We heard reports before we even arrived that there'd been a lot of rain and last night it certainly didn't stop. I'd be very surprised if we got on tomorrow after seeing how wet the grounds were, even coming from the airport to this hotel. It's not looking great,” he remarked.

With the fourth game in Ranchi having been abandoned at the start of India’s chase and this game too most likely to meet the watery grave, Australia’s chances of winning the seven-match series have brightened. Leading 2-1, the visitors need to win just one game out of two last two in Nagpur (Oct 30) and Bangalore (Nov 2) to clinch the series.

Obviously, Indians will have more reasons to feel short-changed but a little bit of foresight, and perhaps a bit of professionalism, from the BCCI would have helped avoid such a situation. Not too long ago, the Champions League T20 match between Mumbai Indians and Highveld Lions was shifted to Jaipur from Ahmedabad due to heavy rains in Gujarat last month. The match was to be held on September 27 but the decision to change the venue was taken just two days before that.

The Board somehow failed to show the same alacrity to move the match away from Cuttack which has witnessed heavy showers for more than a week now.

There have been warnings of cyclone (as early as October 2) and the subsequent depression since early this month but the organisers chose to ignore those tell-tale signs more in hope that things would improve. Of course, there are issues of logistics and ticket sales but they had enough time and definitely have resources to deal with such situations.

For a Board which moved an entire tournament (IPL 2009) to South Africa in an ego battle with the central government, shifting a one-day match to another Indian venue shouldn’t have been such a big hassle. And so far as sold tickets are concerned, the spectators could have been refunded just as they will have to if the match is abandoned without a ball being bowled. 

This was supposed to be a murky battle between the two top-ranked ODI sides but the Ranchi washout and a potential cancellation here have taken the sheen out of this high-profile series.   

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