The 'enemy within' has been vanquished. Cuttack's Barabati Stadium is finally set to host the India-West Indies one-day international on January 24.
In the first week of January, a routine check at the ground found thousands of honey bees swarming around seven massive hives hanging from the roofs of the spectator galleries.
Initially, the Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) was not sure whether to destroy the hives. But what happened on January 10 during the Assam-Orissa Ranji Trophy match helped make up its mind. A 'ground invasion' by hundreds of honey bees disrupted the match. The players and umpires had to lie flat, face down, on the ground for several minutes to avoid being stung by the insects.
The OCA then decided to mount an operation to sanitise the galleries. "We engaged bee experts from Kalahandi," said OCA secretary Ashirbad Behera.
"They started their operation around midnight on Wednesday and cleared the stadium of all the hives by around 3 am on Thursday. They used gas and fire to do the job."
OCA officials said the bee experts chose to act around midnight for safety reasons. There were fears that during daytime the bees could have harmed passers-by. Sunil Ray, an OCA official who witnessed the bee-banishing drive, said the five experts came armed with bamboos, chemicals and gas cylinders. "They went about their job in a scientific manner, tackling one hive at a time," he said.
Stadium officials said about half the bees were killed while the rest flew away. The result: on January 24, India and the West Indies will have only each other to fear.
Email Soumyajit Pattnaik: soumyajit .firstname.lastname@example.org