By Qaiser Mohammad Ali
New Delhi, Dec 12 : Not all the state associations seem to be happy with the venues chosen for England’s upcoming tour of India, and some aggrieved cricket administrators in the state associations are linking it to this month’s elections of the Indian cricket board. Even Indian cricket board president Sourav Ganguly’s home state, Bengal, has questioned him on why it wasn’t allotted any of the 12 matches that will be played in February-March.
A “shocked” Mumbai said it was “extremely unexpected” at being ignored completely. On the other hand, Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) will host seven of the 12 matches in Ahmedabad.
Pune, a very surprising choice, will host all three One-day Internationals while Chennai — Tamil Nadu Cricket Association’s president Rupa Meiyappan is the daughter of former BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) chief N. Srinivasan — will host two of the four Tests. The other two Tests will be staged in Ahmedabad, along with all the five T20 Internationals. The GCA, which will host a an unprecedented seven matches, is the home association of BCCI secretary Jay Shah, though he doesn’t hold any position in it now.
The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) is the other affiliate of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) that is “shocked” to find the city being ignored for the February 5-March 28 tour of England, especially as no Test has been staged in the city for four years.
Interestingly, Ganguly had hinted on September 28 that Mumbai and Kolkata could host the England matches, though at the time there were still some doubts about the tour materialising due to the Covid pandemic. But it was certain that if the tour went ahead, matches would be played in a bio-secure bubble, either in India or in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as the BCCI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) for cooperation.
While Cricket Association Bengal (CAB) president Avishek Dalmiya said he has asked Ganguly directly, MCA executive committee member Nadeem Memon, speaking on behalf of panel colleagues, has requested MCA president Vijay Patil to let them know “the reasons” for Mumbai not getting a single match.
Memon also referred to Ganguly’s comments on September 28. Ganguly, a former CAB president, had made those comments soon after signing the MoU with the ECB.
“We also have the same facility [bio-secure bubble] in Mumbai – Cricket Club of India [Brabourne Stadium], Wankhede [Stadium], and D.Y. Patil [Stadium]. We also have Eden Gardens [Kolkata]. We have to create a bubble. We want to hold our cricket in India, that’s where the game is, that’s where the heart is,” Ganguly had said. Now there is heartburn in certain pockets of the country.
Dalmiya, son of late Jagmohan Dalmiya and a friend of Ganguly, told him that CAB was “expecting” to hold a match in Kolkata.
“CAB was expecting a match against England, especially since the last ODI match, which was scheduled to be played in Kolkata got cancelled,” said Dalmiya in a statement, referring to the ODI against South Africa in March that was cancelled to Covid.
“In this context, I did have a word with the BCCI president, Mr. Sourav Ganguly, and enquired if Kolkata could be accommodated, to which Mr Ganguly informed that these are unprecedented times and that BCCI had to settle with a maximum of three venues this time due to ongoing pandemic,” he said.
Dalmiya said that Ganguly has “assured me that CAB would get a turn in the next home series”.
“India is scheduled to host ODIs and T20s against South Africa as well as T20 matches against New Zealand as per the revised Future Tour Programme post-Covid, ahead of ICC World T20 in 2021 [in India],” he said.
Memon pointed out that Mumbai last hosted a Test match four years ago, against England.
“Mumbai has three of the best stadiums in the world, with the best hotel facilities and other services. Also, Mumbai has been recovering well from all Covid-19 related crisis. Mumbai has not hosted a Test Match since 2016,” he said in his letter sent to MCA president Vijay Patil.
“It is shocking and extremely unexpected that the BCCI wouldn’t consider Mumbai for the upcoming series, despite BCCI president, Mr Sourav Ganguly, himself saying that BCCI will keep the matches in Mumbai in the future,” he wrote.
“We, the Apex Council members of the MCA, urge you to write to the BCCI president regarding our concern and we want to know the reasons behind them not considering any of the Mumbai stadiums.”
Besides Dalmiya and Memon, several other people linked the choice of Pune — the headquarters of the controversial Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) — to the BCCI elections that would take place on December 24 during the AGM.
While pointing out that each vote is priceless in a BCCI election, an official referred to the crucial financial issues that MCA is in, also vis-a-vis its International Stadium in Gahunje, on the outskirts of Pune, where the three ODIs against England will be played.
“The equation is very simple: MCA has two big financial payments to make, and for that it badly and urgently needs money. One large payment is due to Shapoorji Pallonji & Co Ltd, who constructed the Gahunje stadium, and the other is due to Bank of Maharashtra and Andhra Bank, from which it has taken a big loans [besides Bank of Baroda and Karnataka Bank],” he said.
“By hosting three matches against England, MCA would earn a handsome amount from the in-stadia advertising rights and other sources. Also, the BCCI gives more than Rs.1 crore for an association to host an international match. In return, the MCA can oblige a certain person, or persons, at the elections, if it comes to voting,” he explained.
The BCCI pays Rs.2.5 crore to the association for hosting a Test match, Rs.1.5 crore for staging an ODI, and Rs.1.5 crore for hosting a T20 International.
The financial situation in MCA is so bad that the BCCI has been paying the loan to the banks on behalf of the MCA. In August alone, the BCCI made a direct payment of Rs.5.91 crore to Bank of Maharashtra and Andhra Bank as “reimbursement of old Infrastructure claim of MCA stadium project”, besides Rs.5.97 crore to MCA as “reimbursement of old infrastructure claim of MCA stadium project”, according to the BCCI website.