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Stop play! Ref dumps Ranji

The blame for the Indian cricket team's rout in South Africa has been apportioned to the players, reports C Shekhar Luthra.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 15:36 IST

The blame for the Indian cricket team's rout in South Africa has been apportioned to the players, but the men who run cricket in India don't seem to care too much about the game.

This was evident on Monday when a bizarre situation occurred during the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh match in the country's premier event, the Ranji Trophy, at the Ferozeshah Kotla.

The match referee and one of the umpires disappeared from the ground for around 90 minutes even as the players waited for them so that they could start play.

Even more shocking was the fact that the match, delayed in the morning because of bad light, was called off just after lunch even though the possibility of the light improving existed — which it indeed did.

The two umpires, I Shivaram of Hyderabad and Sameer Bandekar of Mumbai, concluded at 9.15 am that the light was not good for play to begin. The light improved at around 11 am and the players prepared to take the field. But there was no sign of the match referee, Sambran Banerjee, and umpire Bandekar. For over 45 minutes, both the teams and their coaches seemed clueless about what was happening.

Coaches Chetan Chauhan of Delhi and Rajinder Singh Hans of Uttar Pradesh said: "We are ready to play, but we have no idea why they (officials) are not starting." At that point, HT asked Shivaram where the two officials were, and all he could say was: "No comments".

Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) general secretary Sneh Bansal agreed that the conditions were perfect for cricket, and was left wondering why play did not start.

The two officials appeared at 11.45 am. Asked where he had disappeared, a clearly rattled Banerjee said: "I was in the toilet." For 90 minutes? Banerjee didn't like this question and took to his heels.

HT learnt that Banerjee and Bandekar had gone to the St Stephens ground to watch a Bengal-Punjab under-22 match.

The match was called off just after lunch, when light was not indeed good for play. But then the sun shone bright from 1 to 1.30!

The DDCA Sports Secretary Sunil Dev was furious. "The irresponsible conduct of the two officials has denied Delhi batting practice and also robbed Aakash Chopra of the chance to complete his second century of the match," he said. "I will request the DDCA to file a complaint with the BCCI."

BCCI joint secretary MP Pandove was shocked to hear of the incident.

"If this is true, and if the DDCA files a complaint, then strict action would be taken against the officials," he promised.

Email Shekhar Luthra:

First Published: Dec 05, 2006 15:32 IST