Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) is facing flak for proposing to host a One Day International (ODI) between India and West Indies at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (JLN) in Kochi instead of considering the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) tours and fixtures committee had awarded the rights to host an ODI of the five-match series on November 1 to KCA, which has been keen on hosting the match at JLN, which is also the home ground of Indian Super League (ISL) heavyweights Kerala Blasters.
If the KCA has its way, there are chances of a clash of dates between the Blasters' home games and the proposed ODI as the fifth season of ISL is likely to start from October.
The Greater Cochin Development Authority leased out the JLN stadium to KCA for a 30-year period in 2014 and the state cricket body is well within its rights to host the match in Kochi. Notably, Thiruvananthapuram hosted the last international match in Kerala — a T20I match tie between India and New Zealand in November 2017.
However, several Blasters players, including CK Vineeth and Ian Hume, have raised concerns over potential damage to the turf at JLN Stadium, which had met international standards ahead of U-17 FIFA World Cup hosted in India in 2017.
#SaveKochiTurf, a hashtag used by the stars, has sparked off a debate over the issue on Twitter and other social media platforms.
'Would they tear up Eden Gardens?'
Canadian striker Hume, who is one of the fan favorites at the JLN, shed light on the laborious process that was undertaken to transform the cricket field into a football field ahead of ISL's inaugural season in 2014.
"The amount of time and money that has been spent since then, to get the pitch to the standard it is now for the U-17 @fifaworldcup and @indiansuperleague 4, it would be a travesty to tear it up for a one off cricket match! (sic)," Hume wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday, March 19.
"Would they tear up Eden Gardens to stage a one off football match?" he added.
So having read that there’s a possibility of a ODI Cricket Match planning to be played in JLN Stadium in Kochi, I have to say this.... I was here for the 1st season of @indiansuperleague when they had 6-8 weeks to transform our field from a Cricket ground to a Football ground. They made great strides in doing so, but it was still some way off being an established field for top level football. The amount of time and money that has been spent since then, to get the pitch to the standard it is now for the U-17 @fifaworldcup and @indiansuperleague 4, it would be a travesty to tear it up for a one off cricket match! I understand the love of cricket in not just Kerala, but all of India, and I don’t want to disrespect anyone for that. But there’s a ground in Trivandrum that is Cricket specific, so why for the sake of one match, rip up a pitch that has taken years to get to the standard as one of the best in the country? Question..... Would they tear up Eden Gardens to stage a one off football match? #SaveKochiTurf ⚽️?????
Meanwhile, Vineeth, in a series of tweets, pointed out that it will take "immense effort" to once again get FIFA approval for JLN turf if it is dug up for the ODI match.
"The JN Stadium is one of only six in India that are FIFA approved, a certification that will take immense effort to obtain again. When India has been known for being a 'cricket crazy' nation, is it really necessary to dig up a football pitch to play a cricket match? #SaveKochiTurf, (sic)" Vineeth opined.
Over the course of this week, I have read various reports that the turf at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium will be dug up to help facilitate the ODI cricket match between India and West Indies. For many different reasons, I feel this is wrong. #SaveKochiTurf pic.twitter.com/Y1RCm14Shd— CK Vineeth (@ckvineeth) March 19, 2018
This picture was clicked two years ago, at a time when over a hundred workers came in for days on end. I have never met any of them, and could never thank them for what they continue to do, but I must implore the authorities that their work is not thrown away.— CK Vineeth (@ckvineeth) March 19, 2018
Us players spend 90 minutes on the pitch. FIFA officials come and go. Fans come, shout and leave. But throughout the year, there are men and women who spend countless hours under the sun making sure that our stage is set. Let’s not do this to them. #SaveKochiTurf pic.twitter.com/5rHnzSstTH— Rino Anto (@rinoanto) March 19, 2018
KCA defends its stand
KCA president Ronklin John said they were forced to move the T20I international between India and New Zealand in November last year to Thiruvananthapuram because of the FIFA World Cup. He opined they have enough time to prepare a new cricket pitch at the JLN Stadium for November's ODI match.
The JLN last hosted an ODI match in 2014. A touring West Indies unit defeated an MS Dhoni-led Indian side by 124 runs in the tie.
"It was a one-off decision to play in the capital city as we had to respect the FIFA regulations. We will definitely want to conduct the ODI in Kochi now that the World Cup is over," John was quoted as saying by The New Indian Express.
"The cricket pitch at the Kaloor stadium was removed for the World Cup, but we have enough time to prepare a new pitch for the match."
Tharoor bats for football at JLN
Meanwhile, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor said Monday he had spoken to Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) chairman Vinod Rai and requested the latter to "denounce" KCA's proposed move.
Spoke to CoA Chief VinodRai to denounce Kerala Cricket Assn's bizarre decision to transfer the India-WI ODI from a match-ready Trivandrum stadium to Kochi, whose ground was last used for the U17 Football World Cup. He has promised to review the matter. KCA motives highly suspect— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 19, 2018
Thanks for the outpouring of support for my firm opposition to KCA's shifting the WI ODI to Kochi. Turf laid for top-class football would have to be dug up, while a cricket-ready SportsHub stadium in Trivandrum, the best in India, lies idle. Who gains from this suspect decision?— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 20, 2018