The Eden Gardens in Kolkata will not be ready in time to host the India-England World Cup clash on February 27 © AFP
In a major embarrassment to the BCCI, the ICC has ruled out Eden Gardens as the host of the game between India and England on February 27. The ICC's inspection team, which included some of the leading experts in the field of stadium and ground preparation, felt that Eden Gardens would not be ready in time. No alternate venue for the match has yet been named. The Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and the three World Cup stadiums in Sri Lanka were all given the go-ahead by the ICC.
"Regrettably, Eden Gardens has not made sufficient progress to justify the level of confidence required to confirm that the venue would be ready in good time," Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, said. "This was no easy decision to take and while it is most unfortunate, it is absolutely necessary." The Cricket Association of Bengal is having an emergency meeting to discuss the development.
Kolkata was to host three other matches in the World Cup, but the status of those games is still unclear. "At this stage no decision has been taken on those matches," an ICC spokesperson said. The India-England clash was the only chance for fans in Kolkata to see the home side.
The news of switching the match from Kolkata comes just two days after the tournament director, Ratnakar Shetty, waved away worries over readiness of World Cup venues. Media personnel had been barred from a recent inspection of Eden Gardens.
The venue, one of the largest cricket stadiums in the world, has hosted some of the highest-profile matches of the previous two World Cups held in the subcontinent including the final in 1987 and the semi-final in 1996. No international matches have been held in Kolkata since the Test between India and South Africa in February as the stadium was being renovated.
"All venues had ample time in which to prepare for World Cup matches," Lorgat said. "We had been understanding and had provided extensions to the deadline dates but unfortunately we are now at a point where we must carefully manage our risks.
"The Central Organising Committee had provided venues with a deadline of 30 November 2010 to complete all construction work and then to be match-ready by 31 December 2010. An extension was granted by the ICC for five venues, which were again inspected over the past week. Sadly, Eden Gardens in Kolkata was unable to meet the final deadline date of 25 January 2011."
The ICC is still deciding on the new venue for the India-England match. "We will work with the new venue, the tour operators and the ticket distributors to manage the logistical challenges that will surely arise," Shetty said.
It is not yet known whether the people who bought tickets to the fixture will get refunds, but according to Shirley Rattray, manager of Cricket Logistics, the ICC's official tour partner, the most pressing issue is for a rapid decision to be reached on the new venue, so that flights and accommodation can be rebooked for the thousands of spectators who are planning their itineraries around the fixture.
"England v India is the biggest game of all the group games," Rattray told ESPNcricinfo. "It was the most popular because Eden Gardens is such an iconic venue to watch cricket. A match there is regarded as one of the sporting things to do before you die, so it's a big shame that the game has had to be moved.
"Reallocating the tickets is one thing, but moving the flights and accommodation is another," Rattray added. "But as soon as we know what venue we've got, then we can get our ground handlers on the case to put it into place. It's never easy when things like this happen, but it will get done. That's the way things work in India, things can be turned around at the last minute very quickly."