Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
File photo of Kochi's JLN stadium hosting an ISL match in 2016.SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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.

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.