SA take series after T20I abandoned due to wet outfield

Water accumulated in the outfield due to unseasonal spell of rain in the afternoon in Kolkata, which prevented a ball being bowled the third Twenty20 International (T20I) between India and South Africa.

Umpires inspect the outfield at Eden Gardens.   -  K.R.Deepak

Groundsmen bring on the covers during showers in the afternoon.   -  PTI

Groundsmen work on the outfield at Eden Gardens.   -  K.R.Deepak

Sourav Ganguly, the president designate of the CAB, in conversation with the South Africa T20 captain Faf du Plessis.   -  K.R.Deepak

Faf du Plessis and the rest of the South African team with the T20I trophy.   -  K.R.Deepak

The final T20I between India and South Africa was abandoned as the Eden Gardens ground was rendered unplayable after a cloudburst in the afternoon that led to accumulation of water in the outfield. South Africa wrapped up the series 2-0, having beaten India convincingly in the previous two outings at Dharamshala and Cuttack.

The scourge of rain came to haunt the Eden Gardens once again: the cloudburst in the afternoon and a spell of shower in the evening literally threw cold water on the prospect of starting the third and final T20I here on Thursday. The localised downpour, beginning in the afternoon and lasting a little over half an hour, was so intense that the groundsmen could not get the venue ready for the scheduled 7 p.m. start. The umpires made three inspections between 7.30 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. before deciding on abandoning the match.

The staging association – Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) – was caught unawares as there was no forecast of heavy rains. As the monsoon had retreated officially, the local organisation went by the usual practice of covering only the pitch and the surrounding areas while leaving the outfield uncovered. The apprehensions of a washout resurfaced as the umpires – Vineet Kulkarni and Anil Chaudhary – and match referee Chris Broad remained unconvinced about the fitness of the ground till the end. By this time the CAB had exhausted all the traditional drying methods and modern machines – three Super Soppers – at its disposal.

The abandonment seemed to scoff at the delay in implementing a recent BCCI advisory which asked the CAB to increase the sand content of the soil and also upgrade the drainage system of the stadium. The BCCI advisory came after the last washout, which happened on April 26 this year, seeing the abandonment of the Indian Premier League (IPL) match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals. There were three more instances in the last two years where IPL and Ranji Trophy matches were washed out because of rain before the match. This was the first international engagement in recent times that was done in by unseasonal rain. The BCCI advisory was determined by the common knowledge among its experts about the nature of the Eden Gardens soil – ‘silt clay’ – which prevents the water from drying easily. This was proved once again as all the efforts at drying the ground came to a nix, which happened in the presence of CAB curator Prabir Mukherjee and BCCI’s East Zone curator Ashish Bhowmick.

Saurav Ganguly, the former India captain and the president designate of CAB after the demise of Jagmohan Dalmiya, found his initiation in the new post rather uninspiring. Ganguly was there since the afternoon downpour and made the first inspection himself going around barefoot with the sleeves of his pair of jeans folded up high almost till the knees. Ganguly made a few more appearances, and later interacted with players and officials around the ground as the umpires went through the inspection, pushing back the match by an hour in each of their appearances. Ganguly once interacted with the South African captain Faf du Plessis where the two apparently discussed the ground condition, with the latter looking unconvinced about the extent of damage.

With the World T20 final scheduled to be held here on April 3 next year, the feasibility of Eden Gardens as the venue comes under question as that is the time when the city sees even more frequent showers.

“I knew there was no chance of a match as there was no sun to dry it out though it rained less than an hour,” said Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. “It is sad we could not play this match and we now have to look forward to the ODI series and hope to make a turnaround there,” he said looking ahead to the first ODI match on Sunday in Kanpur.