Karnail Singh pitch row: Venue likely to be barred again

Karnail Singh Stadium is likely to be barred from hosting first-class matches again after the Ranji Trophy fixture between Railways and Punjab had to be suspended after the surface was deemed “dangerous and unfit for play” by the match officials.

The Indian Express has learnt that the venue which had come under scanner in 2011 is likely to get suspended again. In 2012, Railways had to shift their home base to Bhubaneswar after it was banned for two years from hosting games after the BCCI committee arrived at a conclusion that local curators had deliberately under-prepared the wicket to help the home team.

The match re-started on Day 3 (on Thursday) after the local curators prepared a fresh pitch. The rescheduled two-day match ended in a draw with Punjab taking the first-innings lead. During the drinks break on Day 2, on-field umpires K Madanagopal and Rajeeev Ghodara in consultation with match referee Youraj Singh decided to suspend the Railways vs Punjab fixture after both the captains raised flags about the safety of the pitch. By then 24 wickets had fallen with one of Railways batsman Arindam Ghosh already suffering a fractured finger and several others hit on their body.

Railways were set to play their next three matches at Karnail Singh Stadium, but the fixture against Madhya Pradesh (December 27 to 30) has been moved to Holkar Stadium in Indore.

“BCCI’s neutral curator, Tapas Chatterjee, who was supposed to prepare the pitch for the Madhya Pradesh game has said that he needs at least five days to prepare the wicket,” said a Railway official on the condition of anonymity.

The next two home matches of Railways are against Jammu and Kashmir (January 3-6) and Tripura (January 10-13) at the Karnail Singh Stadium, and there are high chances those games too will be shifted to other venues.

Interestingly, local curator Rakesh Mehrotra has been given a token of appreciation by the match officials for preparing a fresh wicket within a day time.

“This is with regards to his sheer knowledge and hard work which has enabled us to conduct a game for 2 days i.e. Ranji Trophy (Railways vs Punjab) held at the Karnail Singh Stadium in spite of all the challenges and at very short notice he has used all his expertise and provided us with a sporting wicket,” read the joint letter signed by umpires Rajiv Godara and K Madanagopal and match referee Youraj Singh.

“He deserves a lot of appreciation for his excellent work. We wish him the best of luck for all his future endeavours.”

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