The Delhi and District Cricket Association’s (DDCA) loss was Jharkhand State Cricket Association’s (JSCA) opportunity, or so it seemed when the BCCI relocated the second T20 international between India and Sri Lanka from Ferozshah Kotla to Ranchi. However, the last minute-relocation has left Ranchi under-prepared and scrambling to get the conditions match-fit.
Two days before the game, at least the outfield didn’t look fit enough to host an international fixture. With high sand content and plenty of rough patches, there could be injury threats to the fielders.
JSCA secretary Rajesh Verma admitted that they have been caught a little off guard by the eleventh hour rescheduling. “Yes, it’s a race against time. To be honest, we didn’t have enough time to prepare. This venue had been hosting the women’s zonal meet last month and then in January-end we were allotted this (India versus Sri Lanka) game. We have had just nine-ten days to prepare the pitch and ready the outfield. Outfield is not up to scratch, but we have been putting in extra shifts to make it better. We laid extra emphasis on pitch preparation, for it was the top priority.”
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Verma, though, was hopeful that the cricketers will somehow cope up with the conditions. “The outfield is not lush green but they are all professional cricketers and will manage,” Verma said. On January 29, the DDCA had informed the BCCI about their inability to host this game after they failed to get a Provisional Occupancy Certificate from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Ranchi was picked as the alternate venue but the state association had been under no pressure from the BCCI to host the game. “No, there was no pressure. They (BCCI) asked us if we were ready and we took it as a challenge. Smaller centres like Ranchi don’t get the opportunity to host international stars very often and I think we have done a good job, sorting out the logistics and all other issues,” Verma contended.
JSCA International Stadium Complex hosted its first one day international in January 2013. It was a high profile encounter between India and England, being attended by then BCCI president N Srinivasan and his ECB counterpart Giles Clarke. The ‘new entrant’ had passed the test with flying colours. It played hosts to two more ODIs, against Australia and Sri Lanka, since and the arrangements had been perfect. The stadium was duly rewarded in November last year, when the BCCI made it a Test centre. The JSCA Complex is one of the good-looking venues in the country with grass banks on either side of the square and tensile roof.
The pitch will become the focus-point for both teams after India were surprised by a wicket that had seam movement and bounce in the first T20 in Pune. The Ranchi pitch is usually good for batting but it remains to be seen whether the limited preparation time has affected the centre track. The surface here appears a little damp and might allow the ball to grip as the game progresses but one has to wait and watch. The Pune track had surprised even the Sri Lankans. India lost a flurry of wickets within the first six overs, a phase of play that had left even the Sri Lankan offspinner Sachitra Senanayake feeling that they were playing in Australia.
The struggles of Indian batsmen on a slightly spicy pitch also allowed Senanayake to have a slight dig at the Indian batsmen. Asked whether they expected Indians to score more runs, Senanayake said in a matter-of-fact manner: “Yes, they’re No. 1. This is almost their World Cup team while we’re missing a lot of our senior players.” The Indian eyes would scan the pitch at Ranchi when they hit the ground for training on Thursday. Moving the match to Ranchi also made both team’s travel plans slightly more strenuous. The players took a flight from Pune to Delhi at 11.15am and after a two-hour stopover in the capital, the players and support staff from both teams eventually landed in Ranchi at 5.20pm. Incidentally, the Indian players would be taking a charter flight from Ranchi to Visakhapatnam on February 13.
Surprisingly, the change in venue to their hometown hasn’t quite excited the Ranchi fans enough to queue up for tickets. The tickets are priced between Rs 700 and Rs 4,000 and a lot still is left unsold. The capacity here is 40,000 and for a change a full house looks unlikely. “We expect a turnout of around 30,000,” said Verma, adding: “I think ticket prices are OK. But it’s exam time and the young fans are busy with their exams and post-exam admission procedures.” Hopefully, the last-minute preparations would be enough to produce quality cricket that would entertain the crowd that turns out on Friday.