New Delhi:In a very embarrassing turn of events, the fifth One-Day International between India and Sri Lanka at the Ferozshah Kotla Stadium in Delhi has been called off due to poor pitch conditions.
Since the start of the play on Sunday morning, it was clear that the newly-laid Kotla track was uneven, with a few deliveries giving the Sri Lankan batsmen a scare. Tillakaratne Dilshan was hit on his left arm as a ball took off unexpectedly, leaving the batsman in pain.
Sanath Jayasuriya, who survived the longest in the Kotla ODI, copped quite a few blows on his upper arm and wrist during his 51-ball ordeal, while others were seen fending nervously.
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But play continued till the 24th over when a Sudeep Tyagi delivery kicked off the pitch and skipper wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni struggled to collect it.
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Sri Lankan batsman Thilan Kandamby first had a word with Dhoni before he approached the umpires. Umpires Marais Erasmus and Shavir Tarapore soon conferred and Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara was seen gesturing to his teammates from the dressing room.
Sri Lanka were 83/5 when skipper Kumar Sangakkara came onto the field to have a chat with the umpires and his Indian counterpart MS Dhoni. He looked clearly unhappy with the conditions.
Subsequently, Match Referee Alan Hurst also walked in and they were joined by Kotla curator Vijay Bahadur Mishra and BCCI Pitch and Grounds Committee chairman Daljit Singh. India coach Gary Kirsten joined them along with his Sri Lanka counterpart Trevor Bayliss.
Delhi and District Cricket Association officials, including vice president Chetan Chauhan, had offered another pitch to Hurst.
But the final official announcement came more than one-and-half hours later and by then the two teams had already left the venue, along with the officials.
The Kotla tracks have been long criticised for their quality, including during the Champions League T20 tournament. No Ranji games were played in Delhi this season due to the pitch.
However, NDTV cricket expert Ajay Jadeja, who was present in the stadium, said the conditions were not that bad.
A huge crowd that had kept aside the weekend to watch the Delhi match was disappointed. While some spectators held up posters saying "I want my money back", some cricket fans turned violent and broke the chairs in the stadium.
Venkat Sundaram, former chairman of the BCCI pitch committee told NDTV: "It is disappointing and sad to see a wonderful crowd watching a game in the holiday season and for this to happen...It leaves a bad taste in the mouth." He was critical about the lack of preparation especially when these were calendered events.
While fans were furious over the disappointing end to the series, DDCA offered apologies for the same.
"DDCA regrets the inconvenience caused to all spectators and others. We offer our apologies to them," Arun Jaitely, DDCA President said in a statement.
He also said all gate tickets will be refunded. "All gate tickets will be refunded. A detail announcement in this regard will be made shortly," he said.
The embarrassment, however, may not end here as ICC's latest code of conduct regarding poor pitches states that a first such breach should be met with "a suspension of the venue's international status for a period of between 12 and 24 months together with a directive for appropriate remedial action and the need for prior ICC re-accreditation as an international venue".
The last time a match was abandoned on India was in 1997 in Indore. Jayasuriya, who scored 31 on Sunday, was the only player to feature in both the matches.
Earlier, it looked a perfect winter morning for the hosts as Dhoni, back in the saddle after serving a two-match ban, won a crucial toss and his bowlers took the onus on themselves to vindicate their captain's decision.
Playing for pride in this dead rubber, the Sri Lankans watched in horror as the home side bowlers polished off the top half of their batting order inside 18 overs for 63 paltry runs.
For India, Zaheer Khan set the tone, ghosting the first delivery of the match through Upul Tharanga's porous defence. Ashish Nehra too nearly got Tillakaratne Dilshan (20) with his first delivery but an airborne Suresh Raina spilled one in cover.
Uncharacteristically subdued, Dilshan lingered to receive a nasty blow on his forearm when a Nehra delivery kicked off the track, leaving him writhing in pain and necessitating on-field treatment before Zaheer ended his uncomfortable stay.
Kumar Sangakkara's (1) was a brief stay that ended with the Sri Lankan captain becoming debutant Tyagi's first ODI victim and this time Raina was bang on the ball.
Sanath Jayasuriya (31), 20 years of one day cricket under his belt, didn't look comfortable but kept going, poking and edging all along before Harbhajan Singh got into the wicket column with his fourth delivery, a top-spinner that trapped the left-hander plumb in front.
As if it did not look bad enough, Thilan Samaraweera (2) fell to Raina's direct throw after an almighty mix-up with Kandamby.
(With PTI inputs)