The sodden nightmare of the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium revisited the Bangladesh-West Indies first Test yesterday, cancelling the second day of the game without a ball being bowled.
At 11:10am, the umpires took the decision after they tiptoed across the muddy outfield to inspect the conditions. The heavy overnight rain ended five hours before the scheduled start of play and while the groundsmen were hard at work very early in the morning, it was clear to them that nothing would work except long hours of sunshine.
Apart from the super-sopper and manual sponges, the groundsmen began performing the aeration procedure in the three grubby patches. But no matter how hard the curators Zahid Reza and Gamini de Silva worked with their crew, the repetition of this absurd incident is quite baffling for everyone concerned. This is the same venue where two ODIs (in 2007 and 2010) had to be called off in the morning and now another Test match is being interrupted after the same happened on the third day of the Test between India and Bangladesh four years ago.
According to the BCB grounds and facilities chairman Shafiqur Rahman, the fault of extremely poor drainage squarely lies with the delay of the National Sports Council's plan to re-lay the surface at a cost of Tk 2.83 crore.
"Before the World Cup, we had discussions with the NSC as we wanted to replicate the filteration of the Dhaka ground (Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium). We wanted to raise the level of the ground and make it a new surface. NSC had allocated a budget as well. But we couldn't do it before the World Cup because we had to raise the height by three feet and build new pitches, which couldn't have been ready by the time of the tournament," he told reporters at the ground yesterday.
"After the World Cup, it was expected that the NSC would take over the job and finish it. We gave them a lot of letters after the World Cup to take over the ground, but they said the budget they had allocated wasn't sufficient," said Shafiqur, who added that the BCB are now thinking of doing the job worth Tk 4 crore themselves if the custodians of the venues do not live up to their promise.
Despite (or due to) NSC's reluctance, it is the cricket board's decision to stick to a venue like Chittagong in October that is perplexing. Having known about the delay, their unwillingness to move the location of the first Test is questionable. When asked about the alternate venues, Shafiqur said that logistical strength was the main consideration. "There is a question of logistical support. It is not as good as in Chittagong in the other places. That's why we decided to do it here," he explained.
"The Khulna ground is new. It was an alternate World Cup venue. We got time to relay the surface, we can play there from next year," added Shafiqur.
Interestingly, the Shaheed Chandu Stadium in Bogra which is now hosting National Cricket League matches has not been used as an international venue since December 2006 (before which it hosted five ODIs and a Test match). Despite it and the Khulna venue receiving international status, they have been ignored for reasons that are not cricketing.
Now the Tigers will return to the third day and start their innings from 255-4 but one is certain that the ground conditions will have a huge say in the outcome of the game.