If the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association was left looking for scapegoats and searching for conspiracy theories when the India-Sri Lanka ODI at the Kotla was abandoned last December, they have only themselves to blame for the latest mess.
In February this year, Andy Atkinson, the ICC's pitch consultant, had suggested a number of measures to be implemented to have the Kotla rehabilitated in time for next year's World Cup.
The Kotla, which should have attracted an automatic ban when the pitch was found "unfit" last year, escaped with merely having its status as an international venue suspended for 12 months (December to December), as no one wanted to see the Capital excluded from hosting matches in a tournament that will be the pride of the nation.
However, this was done with the understanding that the DDCA would follow the roadmap for rehabilitation that the ICC's pitch consultant put in place. "The renovation of the pitch block and outfield that was scheduled to begin on 19th April, after the last match of the IPL at the ground, was delayed by twenty eight days because the DDCA insisted on playing local matches at the venue completely contrary to the spirit of the agreement recorded in my report from the venue on 14th- 15th February," said Atkinson in his June 25 report.
Atkinson was “frustrated that work being carried out has differed significantly from what was agreed upon."
In February, Atkinson had advised against just what the DDCA went on to do. "I advised caution on attempting to play matches too soon on pitches that have not had sufficient time to settle," he says. "It’s likely that too much wear and tear from players could inflict severe/terminal damage to the pitch surface and grass growth, as happened last year.”
Atkinson had also said that only "chemical methods" be used to get rid of weeds, but was "surprised to find several large areas of the ground had been excavated and large craters left in the outfield."
He has stated in no uncertain terms that he was dismayed by the fact that he was not consulted before the DDCA decided to deviate from the agreed plan of action. Atkinson said, "it is crucial that any deviation from the agreed programme is discussed before action is taken because, in the end, if the project is unsuccessful the buck will not only stop with the DDCA and Mr. Sundaram it will stop on my doorstep as well."
Ex-player Venkat Sundaram, who was appointed to oversee work at the DDCA after the abandonment of the ODI last year did not respond to repeated calls from HT.
Atkinson also warned of “instances of interference from certain sections of the DDCA," (he didn't name anyone) but said that the "senior management have been and continue to be very supportive of the project".
Atkinson's findings have been submitted to Chris Tetley, an ICC events manager, Haroon Lorgat, the ICC CEO, David Richardson, the ICC's General Manager Cricket and other top officials. A more detailed report will be forwarded to the BCCI and the DDCA in due course.