India will play the World Cup at home, but not in the city of joy.
In an unprecedented decision, the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Thursday ruled out Eden Gardens as the venue for the India-England World Cup match on February 27 after the state association missed three deadlines to prove the preparedness of the reconstructed stadium.
An ICC team last inspected the Eden on Tuesday. "The inspection team drew on the knowledge and experience of some of the leading experts in the field of stadium and ground preparation and the view was that Eden Gardens would not be ready by February 27," said ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat.
Cricket Association of Bengal president Jagmohan Dalmiya, however, said there was still hope. "After getting the news I have spoken to a few people in the BCCI and I have written to the president Shashank Manohar on this. He will talk to the ICC and is likely to get back to us in a day or two. I will take all questions regarding loss of face and other things after we get BCCI's reply," Dalmiya said at a late evening media briefing.
Citing that the venues in Sri Lanka and the Wankhede were given around 20 days prior to the match to hand over the venues, the CAB should get around February 7 to do the same, the letter said.
Of the four World Cup group league matches scheduled at Eden, only the India-England tie involved the hosts.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) must now nominate an alternative from six other World Cup venues for ICC's approval. "We have time till 31st (of January)," Manohar told HT from Nagpur.
A BCCI source said Eden's loss would be Bangalore's gain. "The likelihood of a swap with another centre is zero," the source said.
This is the first time a venue has been stripped of the rights to host a World Cup match for its failure to prove its preparedness. In 2007, a World Cup warm-up match was shifted from the Brian Lara Cricket Stadium in Trinidad because the venue was not ready.
Thursday's decision comes after the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) missed three deadlines: November 30, 2010 to complete all construction work, December 31, 2010 to be match-ready and the final, extended deadline of January 25, 2011 for five venues, including Eden, that were struggling to get ready. The other four venues - Colombo, Hambantota and Pallekele in Sri Lanka and Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai - "have been approved subject to minor finishing work being completed within specified time frames not exceeding 14 days."
An ICC insider said the CAB's "lethargic attitude" was the reason why the match was shifted out of Kolkata.
Eden Gardens, which has in the past hosted a World Cup final (1987) and a semi-final (1996), is supposed to host three more matches - Ireland-South Africa on March 15, Ireland-Netherlands on March 18 and Kenya-Zimbabwe on March 20.