Kotla promises a green top by October

Published: Monday, July 12, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:Contrary to speculation, Delhi, after all, might just manage to host one of the Test matches against world champions Australia in October this year.

Nothing has changed much since Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) pitches and grounds committee chairman Venkat Sundaram made the observation last week that the historic Feroz Shah Kotla ground would not be ready in time to host the match, but for the optimism of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) officials.

Suddenly, everything seems to be moving in fast forward mode and, coupled with the possibility of Delhi having to forfeit its turn to host the match to Kolkata, the officials look determined to prove everyone wrong.

DDCA vice-president Chetan Chauhan said if everything went to plan, the ground "in all probability" should be ready by end of October.

"We are expecting that by October end the Kotla ground will be ready for play," the former Test cricketer said.

Chauhan said recently DDCA had a review meeting with contractors, ground staff and architects, where it was decided that by October, the entire renovation work would be completed.

Sundaram, who had personally inspected the progress of work at the ground, had said it would take at least six more months for the pitch to get fit for play.

However, Chauhan said what Sundaram meant was the ground needed to be in "perfect condition" which could take more time.

"We will meet before the working committee meeting of BCCI (on July 18-19) and take a final decision on the matter," he said.

"The workers are putting in 18 hours a day and there is no reason why the job cannot be finished on time."

The renovation work at Kotla started almost seven months back "to transform it into a venue of international standards" and was supposed to be completed by March 31.After the DDCA failed to meet this deadline, it said that the ground would be ready before the Australia series.

"We still have three months to prepare the ground. Digging work for re-laying the pitch has already begun. By mid-August, the ground will be handed over to us with the construction work complete. We can still catch on a month of rain and plant the grass," he said.

Asked whether it was advisable to play a Test match on a re-laid wicket, he said, "Yes, re-laid wickets are fresh and so are fast but we can also have a few practice matches before the international game."So, going by Chauhan, the slow Kotla wicket, which Geoffrey Boycott had once famously remarked was fit for sowing potatoes, now promises to be a treat for fast bowlers.

A lush green outfield and a seating capacity of 60,000 will give a new look to the stadium, which saw Anil Kumble create history against Pakistan with a record 10-wicket haul in 1999.

"The new watering system will drench the entire ground in just six hours and a proper drainage facility will flush out the water quickly," Chauhan said.

The former India opener also revealed that plans were afoot to name the four main gates after star batsman Virender Sehwag and former greats Bishan Singh Bedi, Mohinder Amarnath and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.

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