THE SECOND semi-final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy between Jharkhand and Bengal and the final have been pushed back by a day each after a fire broke out on Friday morning at the hotel in Delhi’s Dwarka area where the Jharkhand team, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was put up. Both games will now be played at the Ferozshah Kotla on Saturday and Monday respectively.
At 6.30 am, fire broke out at a Reliance store, situated on the first floor of the hotel. Members of the Jharkhand team, who were staying on the seventh floor, saw smoke billowing from below. The entire unit, along with the other guests were asked to evacuate their rooms and assemble in the lobby. A call was made to the Delhi Fire Services at 7.00 a.m. following which close to 30 fire tenders rushed to the spot. The Jharkhand team as well as the other guests of the hotel were all reported to be safe.
“We generally assemble in the lobby at 7.30am before a game, but at 6.30 am I saw smoke coming from the ground floor. At first, I didn’t realise what the matter was. It only struck me when I got a strong burning smell. Just then, a member of the hotel staff knocked at my door and asked me to evacuate the room immediately using the stairs. They had barred us from using the lift due to security concerns. The entire team and the other guests assembled in the lobby,” Jharkhand team manager PN Singh said.
Singh immediately called the state association in Ranchi as well as match referee Sanjay Varma, informing them about the incident. “The match referee asked us to leave the hotel premises and head to the stadium. Our jerseys were in our rooms, but under those circumstances, there was no way we could have returned to our rooms,” he added.
The Jharkhand team went to the Palam Ground and met the match referee, and the Bengal team, and the decision was taken to reschedule the game. The team would only return to their hotel two hours later — much after the fire was put out.
Ishan Kishan, Jharkhand’s young top-order batsman, said the fiasco had caught him and his team-mates off guard. He, however, quashed rumours doing the rounds suggesting that the players’ cricket gear was damaged by the fire. “These reports are incorrect and absolutely baseless. Our cricket gear was at the stadium,” he said.
Friday’s incident was not the only reason why the BCCI decided to relocate the semi-final, from the Palam Ground to the Feroz Shah Kotla. The shoddy security cover provided to Dhoni and his team during Jharkhand’s quarter-final tie against Vidarbha at Palam obviously has not impressed the Board.
“I think it has more to do with the way things panned out during our previous game at Palam. The security struggled to contain the crowd. There were also instances of people coming onto the pitch. With a player like Dhoni around, BCCI must have decided not to take any more chances. The Kotla is a bigger ground, and the security is also better there,” Singh offered.
So, the BCCI has asked the Jharkand team to relocate to another hotel in the heart of the capital. Apart from the security reasons, the move would also cut down on the travel time. “The drive from Dwarka to the Kotla will easily take more than an hour. The toss will take place at 8.30 am, so, we will have to reach the ground atleast an hour earlier. So, shifting to a hotel in Connaught Place makes sense,” Singh added.
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