“As things stand, we don’t know when we can leave the city, because you see the situation here is pretty tense and an indefinite curfew has been imposed,” a Services official told The Indian Express after their Ranji Trophy Elite Group C match against Assam at Guwahati was abandoned on Thursday.
With Assam burning over the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), match referee Valmik Buch called off the fourth day’s play after receiving an email from the Assam Cricket Association (ACA) that expressed security concerns, while mentioning the grave law and order situation in Guwahati.
The Services team were due to fly back on Thursday evening, but their return has been postponed. “We have been confined to our hotel premises here since morning, as per the directives from the Assam Cricket Association (ACA).The Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) has provided us with the necessary security arrangements, so the players are absolutely safe,” the official said, adding: “I’m told that the SSCB is in touch with the BCCI and arrangements will be made soon to get us out of Guwahati at the earliest.”
“The team will take a flight back to Delhi on Friday,” SSCB secretary Col Satyavrat Sheoran informed.
The Services team that play the Ranji Trophy under the auspices of the SSCB, represent the Indian Armed Forces. The ACA secretary Devajit Saikia confirmed that both teams and the match officials have been asked to stay put in their respective hotels because of security reasons. “They (Services) can’t leave tonight. Their flight was at 7.20pm and for that they had to leave for the airport at around 4pm. But the police told us that it would be extremely dangerous to travel today, because the entire highway from their hotel to the airport; there were several picketings and a lot of vehicles were already burnt. A firing incident also took place on the highway. So the police advised that they have to postpone their departure at least till tomorrow,” Saikia told this paper.
The Assam players and support staff, too, have been asked not to leave their hotel. With regards to the match, the decision to call it off was taken after 11pm on Thursday, as the ACA secretary wrote to the match referee. “With regret I would like to inform you that due to some political development, the law and order situation in Guwahati has deteriorated since yesterday evening. Initially, the State Authorities had stopped the internet services in 10 districts of Assam including Guwahati, and later on from 7:00pm yesterday curfew has also been clamped down indefinitely in Guwahati. This morning the State Authorities have deployed Army in Guwahati and at present flag march is going on and people are advised not to venture out to the streets,” Saikia wrote in his email.
He added: “Upon speaking to the Police Authorities at about 11:00am today, we are informed that there is no possibility of improvement or change in the situation during the course of next few hours. In view of above, it will be extremely difficult for Assam CA to make arrangement of transport from the hotels where the Assam Team, Services Team and the match officials are presently staying to the ACA Stadium, Barsapara, the venue of the match, ensuring full safe (safety) and security.”
Match referee Buch accordingly discussed the matter with the BCCI general manager, cricket operations, Saba Karim, and called off the fourth day’s play.
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As per the Ranji Trophy playing conditions, Assam will get three points from the drawn encounter because they took the first innings lead.
“On the advisory of the host association, the decision was taken to abandon the fourth day’s play,” Karim told The Indian Express, confirming that the match won’t be replayed. “No, because we already have had a first innings lead. Playing conditions are very clear; the team that has taken the first innings lead will get three points and the other side gets one point.”
Going into the final day, the match was intriguingly poised. Assam, on overnight 74/5 in their second innings, needed another 168 runs for victory, while Services needed five wickets. But as Karim said, the players’ safety was paramount. “There’s a curfew in force and they (players) are not supposed to step out of their rooms of their hotel. And this decision was taken in consultation with the host association.”