Well, it was a nice sunny day and we had managed to get Club house passes for the last one day match between India and Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi. The match was scheduled to start at 9.00 am and spectators were requested to take their seats starting from 8.00 am. Since it was a bit cold in the morning, we arrived at around 10.00 am at the gates of the Feroz Shah Kotla grounds.
Security was really strict at the entry gates. The female security staff at the gates did not allow us to take our purses inside. They told us that we could keep only our mobiles and cash, but had to leave our handbags in the car. They said that there was a very strict security threat from some terrorists and that the orders had come from the highest level.
At first, we thought that they would allow us with our purses in after some begging and excuses, since purses were allowed at the India - Australia match, held around one month ago. However, they were too strict and all women with purses were turned away. Soon we saw Ajay Jadeja and his 5 year old son being frisked by the security. Realizing that the security was way too strict, we called our Dad and had him pick up our purses. We were also told by the security that exit and re-entry would not be allowed during this match.
Well, we managed to enter the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium at around 10.30 am. Half the seats in our section were empty and we easily got seats. We cheered when a couple of wickets fell and I was lucky to be looking at the ground when India got an amazing run out. The score at that time was around 60/3. I saw Zaheer Khan fielding at the boundary, Dhoni with his No.7 shirt, Harbhajan Singh with his turban, Jayasuriya coming in to bat and Sehwag with his white hat. The other players could not be made out from the distance.
The food in the stands was quite expensive. A packet of chips with an MRP of Rs. 20 was being sold for Rs. 40. When we questioned the chips seller, he gave a flimsy excuse of ' rent having to be paid for his stall'. Momos cost Rs. 80 for a plate of 6 momos. Well, just as we ordered the food and settled in to watch the match, we realized that something was up.
The players were sitting about on the field, some of them doing stretches. At first we thought that maybe there was a tea break for refreshments. Seeing no refreshment cart on the field and it being only the 23rd over, we guessed that something was wrong. We phoned home and Dad told us that it was on TV that the match was abandoned due to 'unfit playing conditions' and that media persons were saying that the pitch was bad.
At the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium no announcement was made of that sort. Members of both teams and the umpires walked off the field. A message flashed on the big action replay screen that 'play had been suspended'. Many people expected that play would soon be resumed. We decided to wait around for some time. A message informing not to indulge in racist, ethnic or religious comments against players or spectators kept scrolling on the big action replay screen.
Very soon, people lost their patience and the first few bottles of water were hurled on to the ground. Confetti of torn 6 and 4 signs began falling from the higher stands. Chants of 'haay haay' went up. Next to go were the white seat covers from the stands that had cushions. People twirled the white seat covers around their heads a-la Saurav Ganguly at the Oval Test match. Then, people began hurling the red cushions from the Club house seats. Lastly, people in the cheap yellow seats became so angry that they had nothing to throw on the pitch that they tore off the yellow seats and began throwing the dangerous missiles. Corporate signs were also torn down. All hell broke loose and the cops charged soon charged the unruly crowd with lathis.
We decided to wait a few minutes till the disturbing scene cleared up and then exit the stadium. After nearly an hour, an announcement was made saying that the tickets would be refunded. I don't think this would have made much difference to the unruly crowd as most of them have bought complimentary passes in black. As these complimentary passes are non refundable, they will not recover any money. Also, many have been betting, so they must have lost a lot of cash there too. Outside, the spectators caused a traffic nightmare, picketing on the road and shouting slogans. No one was sure why the match was canceled and people suspected the official reason of the 'pitch being bad' was untrue.
We took an auto rickshaw back home. The auto driver told us that the official reason being given was 'bad pitch' but the real reason at the ground level was something quite different. He said the police had received a serious threat of 'Philistini' terrorists wanting to attack the crowds at the cricket match in Delhi. It had also been reported in the newspaper that the police had some information about a planned 26/11 style terrorist attack in some crowded place. As the Sri Lankan team had already been seriously attacked in Lahore earlier this year, the venue was deemed to be 'unsafe' and it was decided not to take the risk of continuing to play the match.
Well, I have no idea why terrorists could be after the Sri Lankan team or what are the relations between Sri Lanka and Palestine, but here are some thoughts to mull over -
1. The match was called off after the 23rd over. If the pitch was really unplayable or dangerous, it would have been noticed in the first two overs itself and the match abandoned. The other match that was abandoned in India - the Indore match between India and Sri Lanka was called off after the second over, after Sri Lanka complained.
2. If the pitch was really bad, it could have been discovered a week ago, a day ago or earlier in the morning. Why was it's 'unplayable condition' suddenly discovered in the middle of the match. Surely, it was tested after being relaid ???
3. There was no rainy weather or dew to spoil the conditions of the ground. It was bright and sunny.
4. It is a fact that matches at the Ferozshah Kotla grounds are low scoring and the ball keeps low. In most matches, it is expected that some balls bounce extra high and some keep really low.
5. Chetan Chauhan said, "Sri Lanka were at 83 for five and that's why they backed out, it was the Sri Lankans who chickened out. I agree this was not ideal for international matches but this was neither unplayable or dangerous."
6. Why was there such strict security checks?
7. Why did it take the umpires and match referees so long to declare that the match was abandoned? Why was no immediate specific reason given?
8. Match referee Alan Hurst labelled the Feroz Shah Kotla ground 'unfit' in his post-match report. He made no mention of dangerous pitch conditions.
Well, what do you think???