When Sachin Tendulkar and his Mumbai teammates reached the Palam grounds on Friday morning, they must have been shocked by what they saw. The sight-screen, comprising a white sheet of cloth propped up on bamboo poles, had been shredded and blown away by the overnight hailstorm. The wicket was wet as the strong winds had blown away the covers, leaving the track open while it rained.
The match officials soon called off the day's play. And, there is little chance of the play resuming on Saturday too, with wicket unlikely to dry up in time.
"The winds were really strong and blew away the covers. As a result, water has seeped into the wicket. The damage in a closed stadium would have been less, but ours is an open ground….that's why so much damage," said Palam curator Ashok Verma. The curator said they had nailed the covers properly.
That this should happen in a Ranji Trophy semifinal - the premier domestic tournament - is really unfortunate. While no one can fight the weather, one could still question whether it was wise on the part of the BCCI to stick to its home-and-away rule and allot such a crucial game to the venue that has minimal facilities and no protection from the vagaries of nature.
Agreed the weather could have played a spoilsport at any venue, but the damage at a better venue wouldn't have been as much and the facilities to get the ground back in shape would have been far better. Won't it be tragic if the bad weather doesn't allow enough play and the winner is decided by flip of the coin.
It would have of course been unfair to Service if the match was staged elsewhere, denying them the legitimate home advantage. But perhaps they too would have preferred to play at a better venue rather than leaving the fate of the game in the hands of the fickle weather.
For the facilities and logistics, they can't be blamed beyond a point. Like other state units, they don't get hefty grants from the BCCI as they are an institutional unit. They, however, do get some grant for the maintenance and relaying of wickets and ground.
Besides, there's no designated area for the crowd to sit and watch. In this particular match, the crowd has been debarred from entering the ground to ensure Sachin Tendulkar isn't mobbed.