CHENNAI: The TI-Murugappa ground is a serene and nondescript venue in the outskirts of the city. On Monday, it entered the record books of domestic cricket. That’s because the Vijay Hazare Trophy Elite Group C match between Bengal and Jharkhand ended one over short in near darkness. Both teams took so long to complete their overs that there was no time to bowl the last one!
The incident without any precedent saw Jharkhand declared winners on the VJD Method, which is normally used to determine outcomes of rain-affected matches. The match started on time at 9am and there was no delay caused by external factors. Just that the teams took inordinately long and went way beyond the stipulated time.
Jharkhand bowled first and took four hours and 18 minutes to finish 50 overs. As result, the first innings ended at 1.18pm instead of 12.30. Scheduled to commence at 1.15pm, the second innings started at 1.48. Taking into account the delay, the match referee cut short the lunch break by 15 minutes and made it half-an-hour.
It was Bengal’s turn to go slow after that. They were supposed to finish 50 overs by 5.18pm. But when the umpires forced the players off due to insufficient light at 6pm, they were still to bowl the 50th over. Light was not conducive during the last 10-15 minutes, although the umpires carried on after checking the light meter.
While the sides blamed each other, match referee Sanjay Sharma went by the book and fined the captains along with their teams. Asked whether the extraordinary situation called for an inquiry, Syed Saba Karim, BCCI general manager of cricket operations, said he was waiting for the match referee’s report. “Our team will look into it after we hear from him,” he said. It also has to be seen if the BCCI’s Anti-corruption and Security Unit too comes into the picture.
Under rules, captains are either fined or warned when their teams fail to complete overs in time. If the same thing happens a number of times, captains can even be suspended.It has to be seen if the BCCI takes further action, considering the rare nature of what happened. Short delays are commonplace, but matches not being completed because of this is unheard of. None present at the venue could recollect if they had experienced this kind of delay caused by slow over rates.
“I think we were hard done by because Jharkhand took so long to complete the first half,” said Bengal coach Sairaj Bahutule. “The rule says lunch break has to be a minimum of 30 minutes. But if the first innings takes so long, we may have to think of making it shorter.” Jharkhand coach Rajeev Kumar said: “It should never take this long to bowl 50 overs. I think players are misusing the rule by stretching it this far.”
The bizarre incident overshadowed Jharkhand’s fifth consecutive victory, which put them firmly on top of Elite Group C. Despite a stroke-filled century by opener Anand Singh and his entertaining opening stand of 119 in just 18.5 overs with captain Ishan Kishan, his team almost made a mess of chasing down 268. But for three dropped catches by Bengal at key junctures, they might well have lost.