Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) inter-club Premier Cricket Tier ‘A’ title contenders, Bloomfield, and CCC, (who is fighting for survival in the top group) faced each other last weekend hidden hands had been operation behind the scenes to prevent the game from being played.
|The new look Bloomfield grounds sans its perimeter walls. Pic by Mangala Weerasekera
The venue for the match between the two teams was changed from Reid Avenue, the original venue to Navy ground in Welisara on request by the host team. The approval had been granted verbally by an official of the SLC Tournament Committee. But the tournament committee of SLC informed the two teams and match officials that the venue will remain unchanged at Reid Avenue just 12 hours before the start. However both teams were given the option of a date change as such facilities were afforded to all the clubs during the season according to a tournament committee member.
“As soon as the wall on the side of the scoreboard was brought down by the municipal council we informed the SLC tournament committee of the incident and requested a venue change. An official told us to send an official letter with the sanction of our opponents,” revealed Jayantha Seneviratne who is the Chairman of Cricket Committee of Bloomfield.
With the ground in Colombo still not in a suitable state of play, both teams and match officials, including the two on-field and reserve umpires, were surprised by the last minute change of decision.
As both teams have been clearly informed of the outcomes they will have to face if they fail to turn up at the venue decided by the tournament officials, Bloomfield and CCC showed up at Reid Avenue on April 28 only to see an unprepared wicket surrounded by a muddy outfield.
However the matter was taken up to the top officials of SLC, including its chairman and even the Minister of Sports affairs of the country by the Bloomfield officials before remedy was applied. The match was played at Welisara but the chairman of tournament committee, Ravi de Silva resigned from his position a few days after the incident.
“Technically the approval for these kinds of requests is very delicate. They should be handled with great focus and prudent decisions which will be justifiable to all teams must be adhered to. But it has nothing to do with my resignation. It was purely due to professional commitments,” de Silva told the Sunday Times.
The incident which led the match for a venue change took place on the second day of the match between hosts Bloomfield and SSC last week. Both teams were in their respective dressing rooms as the entire first session of day’s play was affected by rain. The ground which already had water in the outfields submerged within minutes after the walls was brought down by municipal workers was followed instructions of the Defense Ministry according to witnesses.
With their match against CCC just six days away, Bloomfield officials have verbally made their request for a venue change with the ground conditions getting to worsen at Reid Avenue. An official of the tournament committee had told Seneviratne to send an official letter to the relevant official.
“I was told that the request could be entertained in favour as the ground conditions at Bloomfield was in a bad state. So I sent a letter requesting the venue change last Tuesday (April 28) and according to an official it was granted. They have chosen Welisara as the new venue and even requested from us if we could provide pitch covers and clay. We sent them immediately,” Seneviratne added.
But later last Thursday, both clubs were officially notified that the request made by Bloomfield had not received the green light from the tournament committee. According to Seneviratne the tournament committee’s reason for not granting approval for the venue change had been Bloomfield’s failure to table the letter at its weekly meeting.
“They had sent a letter but there was no letter from the CCC officials, stating their agreement for the venue change. Moreover how can a responsible authority like the SLC correspond verbally when things have to be done in an official way,” de Silva asked.
The match officials who were appointed for the encounter too experienced the same hassle according to Ronnie Gunaratne who is in charge of the appointments. “We act upon the tournament committee’s requests. They informed us that the venue was changed to Welisara and again said that it was taken back to Reid Avenue,” he said.
Further elaborating on the conduct of the tournament committee Seneviratne questioned its credibility stating that they have responded to other clubs positively and complained that there had been attempts to deprive Bloomfield from winning the championship. He praised the chairman of interim committee and the sports minister for intervening on this affair. However de Silva explained that the allegations are wrong.
“We approved requests for date changes earlier as most of the clubs faced difficulties in carrying on to the schedule due to the World Cup. Sri Lanka had to give international teams practice facilities and as a result most of the matches had to be played on later dates within a given week. But we have never approved venue changes,” de Silva added.
With the matter going out of hand Bloomfield officials had brought up the matter with the interim committee of SLC. With the Minister of Sports also coming into the picture the match was played one day after the fixed date at Welisara. Bloomfield went on to win the match in a high-scoring encounter where CCC too obtained bonus points that could help their revival in the top tier.
A reliable source however told the Sunday Times that on this relevant issue both parties had acted correctly according to the formalities of SLC tournament conduct. A clause from the tournament rules booklet indicates that any requests on change of date, venue or pitches should be submitted to the tournament committee before seven days from the game with the consent of their opponent. However Bloomfield officials not having enough time, had informed a tournament committee member by telephone and sent their letter five days before the game.
“Both are correct in this issue. It’s the home team who are making the request and they could be the worse affected. But both teams have agreed on this though CCC failed to submit their approval on time. Bloomfield too acted accordingly but on the other hand the tournament committee too has done their part correctly. But everything has to done in black and white not verbally. It was the top officials who did not get the point correct here. There could have been a third party involved in this incident,” the source suspected.