Conditions frustrate Karnataka

Conditions frustrate Karnataka

Groundsmen at the Karnail Singh stadium attempt to dry the pitch after early morning rain delayed the second day’s play between Railways and Karnataka. dh photo/ROSHAN THYAGARAJAN

Last night’s heavy downpour coupled with three short spells of rain on Tuesday meant only 114 minutes of play was possible in Karnataka’s Elite Group ‘B’ Ranji Trophy contest against Railways at the Karnail Singh stadium. 

The duration, also affected by bad light as the day wastefully meandered, only allowed for 23 overs. Railways added 62 runs to their overnight tally of 98 for 6 to end the second day on 160 for 7 in 72 overs.

It’s more than Karun Nair and Co would have wanted to give away. But the visitors’ predicament went beyond their position in this contest. 

Placed seventh on the cross pool table, Karnataka needed as many points as possible from the three remaining contests before arriving here. With this game destined for a draw - there’s more rain forecast the next couple of days - Karnataka can only hope to pick up three points on innings lead. Their progress in this tournament would then hinge on the remaining two contests in Shivamogga (against Baroda) and Bengaluru (against Madhya Pradesh). Even outright wins there won’t guarantee a spot in the knockouts.

In that context, Karnataka would have wanted as much game time here to leave less to permutations of the future. Unfortunately for them, maintenance at this dilapidated venue let them down. 

Reinstated upon Saba Karim’s (GM cricket operations, BCCI) insistence earlier this year, Railways’ home ground for more than six decades is in no position to host first-class cricket. Although the pitch was relayed, it still plays dead, and the outfield is comparable to those used for division cricket and below. Sporadic tufts of buffalo grass make life difficult for fielders and the hard layer of soil under the patchy lawn makes it impossible to throw in a dive. 

The situation is infinitely worse when it rains. The ancient covers have holes in them and the super-sopper has been out of service for a couple of months, forcing the groundsmen to use cotton carpets to dry the outfield. In fact, they borrowed a super-sopper from the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) for this game, and even that machine is on its last limb. “I told them (Railways) about this a few months ago and they’re claiming there is no money. It’s impossible to maintain a ground all by myself,” said a veteran groundskeeper. 

With maintenance coming at a premium, the pitch had a massive wet patch and the outfield was mostly slushy, made worse by three rain spells. Had it not been for match referee Sanjay Verma’s drive, the likelihood of the field being ready for play even at 3.00 pm would have been impossible.

“The BCCI has done a lot of work there,” said Karim. “We have re-laid the pitch and evened the outfield as well. It shouldn’t have happened (water seeping onto the pitch). Maintenance is definitely an issue. Railways do not receive a subsidy from the BCCI. That said, the lack of covers should have been brought to our notice earlier. We are working on setting things.” 

Once the archaic maintenance paraphernalia - burning coal-warmers included - ensured half-decent conditions, one would have expected Karnataka’s pacers to capitalise in favourable conditions. Instead, Arindam (50 batting) held one end up and Avinash Yadav brazenly slashed and pulled his way to an edgy but entertaining half-century. Left-hander Yadav eventually fell to a brute of a delivery from More, inciting a nick to Devdutt Padikkal at gully. The 97-run alliance had run its course, but skipper Arindam held on.  

Arindam, who was bowled off of a no-ball from Mithun earlier in the day, remained unbeaten alongside Amit Mishra (10 batting) before the fading light forced the umpires to suspend the game at 4.54 pm and call it off at 5.15 pm.

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