The start of the Ranji Trophy tournament couldn't have asked for more drama than this.
In an unprecedented move, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) disqualified the Services team from taking part in this season's competition for refusing to travel to Srinagar for the Plate Division tie against Jammu and Kashmir. Board secretary N. Srinivasan justified the decision to HT, saying, “We are going according to the rule book and every association is aware of this rule.”
“Services's forfeiture would have given an undue advantage to J&K. Since they (Services) are keen on playing the other matches except this one, it would have been difficult to even out the four-point advantage that J&K would have got. So the Board was forced to stick to the rule book.” <b1>
But the drama was far from over. Under pressure from various quarters, the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) apologised to BCCI.
In a statement issued to the media, after a long-drawn meeting, the SSCB cited 'administrative slip-up' as reason for their no-show. This after Union minister and Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) president, Farooq Abdullah and the state's chief minister Omar Abdullah had lambasted the SSCB and said they planned to take up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The SSCB statement said: “It was an administrative slip-up in dispatching the cricket team, and the Services Sports Control Board has apologised to the BCCI for the inconvenience caused while requesting them for fresh dates.”
But the BCCI refused to accept the apology stating that the decision has already been taken. “It won't make much of a difference as the dates have been announced and the tournament has already started,” said BCCI vice-president and spokesman Rajiv Shukla.
“It's like a candidate desirous of standing in elections fails file his nomination and later comes out and apologises when the date has long expired,” Shukla said.
Staring on Tuesday, the match was supposed to signal the return of first-class cricket to the Valley after five years.
And giving the saga a final twist was Services manager Deepak Bhaskar, who was supposed to travel with the team. Bhaskar said he wasn't aware of the developments. “I am completely clueless on this so how can I comment,” he said.