Qaiser Mohammad Ali
It has now emerged that several deliberate attempts were made by some disgruntled DDCA officials to allegedly “sabotage” this month’s India-South Africa Test in Delhi, the most sensational being the non-installation of the mandatory air-conditioner in the rooms housing official TV broadcaster’s sensitive equipment, without which there would have been no live telecast – and a global loss of face for the BCCI and Delhi.
This particular issue forced match observer Mukul Mudgal to give an ultimatum to the contractor that if he tried to “sabotage” the match by not installing the AC – it was already late by a few days — he would get him “blacklisted” by the BCCI as well as the DDCA. Eventually, the ACs were installed but well below the 30 ton required but just a few hours before the start of the match and only after Mudgal’s intervention.
The insecurity was such that six pedestal fans were kept for emergency to replace the ACs if required.
Among the other attempts that were reportedly made to “sabotage” the five-day match were: cutting of CCTV wires on successive nights before the match, hiding BCCI letters of requirements from Mudgal, delay in providing satellite uplinking facilities for live telecast, inordinate delay in providing mandatory internet facility to various parties, and disconnecting water supply when the stadium and its 43,000 seats were being washed etc.
But, say several sources, that the issue that compelled the otherwise polite Mudgal lose his cool was the non-installation of the air-conditioners until a day before the match started on December 3. After BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur apparently brought the issue to Mudgal’s notice, the retired judge immediately summoned concerned contractor/DDCA officials and admonished them for the lapse and got them working.
“The BCCI had sent to the DDCA a 21-page letter listing all the requirements for the official broadcaster STAR India, for making arrangements for the live telecast. But one particular sulking official, perhaps deliberately, didn’t inform Mudgal, who was appointed by the Delhi High Court to oversee the match, about this important letter,” said one of the several sources that jantakareporter.com contacted.
Giving graphic details of the episode, the sources, who were present at various junctures when this episode unfolded, said that Mudgal, a retired Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, got so much angry that he told the concerned contractor that he would get him “blacklisted” by both the BCCI and the DDCA if he tried to “sabotage” the match. Mudgal reportedly also pulled up a top DDCA official who was responsible for ensuring that arrangements were in place for the broadcaster.
“Since the huge broadcasting equipment generates a lot of heat when switched on, it needs heavy and effective air-conditioners. The BCCI’s detailed letter had specifically informed the DDCA that two 15-ton ACs were needed for the two rooms in which these equipment were to be kept for the five-day match,” said a source.
“Without the required AC capacity, we would have had to close the equipment after just one hour of it being switched on because of the excess heating that the equipment generates, and that would have meant no live telecast of the match and loss of crores of rupees to the broadcaster – and, of course, a huge loss of face for the BCCI worldwide,” a member of the BCCI’s production unit official, involved in production of matches many years, told jankareporter.com.
“We were told that the DDCA official who was supposed to ensure that the ACs were installed did not inform Mudgal about our [BCCI’s] letter of requirements until one of us [TV production unit] noticed the absence of ACs and brought it to the notice of BCCI’s Director (Broadcast Services) James Rego, who in turn informed Mudgal and Anurag Thakur. Eventually, Thakur spoke to Mudgal to get things moving,” he said, giving details of the sequence of events.
Mudgal immediately summoned the concerned contractor and the DDCA official who was in-charge of ensuring everything was in place for the broadcaster.
“Mudgal gave a thorough dressing down the contractor and the DDCA official and sternly asked the official as to why he didn’t inform him about the BCCI letter. This happened in the presence of many people; you can ask the others who were present when this happened,” said the source who was among the people who was witness to the exchange of words.
“The DDCA official claimed that the process of AC installation was on. But Mudgal, who had tackled trickiest of cases as a judge, was not impressed or convinced,” he said. “Mudgal virtually lost his cool and told the contractor that if he tried to sabotage the match, he would ensure that he was ‘blacklisted’ by the BCCI as well as the DDCA. This made both the contractor and the DDCA official quickly fall in line and after this dressing down both fell in line.”
In a report filed by a BCCI production team on November 26 – eight days before the Test match was to start — after it completed a recce of the Ferozeshah Kotla, the absence of several facilities – particularly at the two, adjacent Broadcast Control Rooms (BCR) — at the stadium were highlighted.
“The air-conditioning of both rooms is not sufficient need up to 15 tons in each room. This has been noticed in the past that AC units are always installed inside the room in the corner which covers a lot of area of the room and are very noise[y]. We recommend wall mounted AC (split AC) to be installed in both rooms to get enough space for BCR needs,” said a portion of the recce report.
On the vital area of ‘Satellite Uplink Area’, the recce report noted, “Located on the roof of the Willingdon Pavilion restaurant. A permanent satellite uplink hut is not in place here, and needs to be constructed with the size of 12’x12’x10’ on the roof of the restaurant with two tube lights, power plug points 5 amps and 15 amps (2 each), 8 inches cable hole, one table, five chairs, air-conditioning (2×1.5 tons) on stadium power and should be waterproof,” it said, highlighting the shortcomings for broadcaster STAR India.
In its recce report, sent to the BCCI on 26 November, with a copy to the DDCA, it clearly noted, “Please ensure all facilities are in place by November 28.”
The report informed the DDCA that the “Wi-Fi internet, telephone lines should be installed and working” by November 29, a day before the TV production equipment arrived and off-loaded at the Kotla.
It was on November 30 that the broadcaster’s production team noticed that certain crucial arrangements, including the absence if the ACs, were not in place.
The source said that the installation of the air-conditioners started only at around 5 pm on December 2, just a few hours before the match was to start, after an angry Mudgal got into action. “But eventually two ACs of only 7.5 tons could be installed – and not of 15 tons each – as the equipment had already arrived inside the rooms and the ducting could not be done. For emergency, we kept aside six pedestal fans for emergency, if the ACs failed.”
Some people in the DDCA speculated about a possibility that the reason contractor had not installed the ACs. “Despite Mudgal assuring him that he was taking the responsibility of his payment, because he (contractor) was allegedly threatened by certain disgruntled people who apparently told that if he installed ACs he would have to face the consequences,” said another source, who also pointed to a minor error in the tender document regarding the ACs.
“Many DDCA officials were sulking because Mudgal had virtually closed all the doors of the alleged ‘corruption’ through tightening of the tender process and allotment of contracts for the Test match,” he said. “It is well-known at the Kotla for many years that through tenders certain officials have been benefitting from contracts that certain firms secure for international matches besides other occasions.”
The other act of ‘sabotage’ was the cutting of CCTV and other wires that happened more than once, said the source.
“We noticed that for about two or three days before the match started when we would arrive at the Kotla we would find that the wiring for the CCTV was mysteriously cut at places. When we would inquire, some people would show some other wiring that was also cut. We are sure they said that so that they were not suspected for this attempt to sabotage the match. It was clear a set of sulking people with the DDCA deliberately tried their best to sabotage the Test match,” he said.
“Among the other attempts to sabotage the match was the inordinate delay in providing internet facility to various parties, including the broadcaster and the company that was making 3,500 accreditation cards for the game,” he said.
“One night, a couple of days before the match started, someone disconnecting water supply when a huge staff of the contractor was washing about 43,000 seats in the stadium. It was again a clear attempt to sabotage the match,” he said. “But eventually the disgruntled elements were defeated and, thankfully, somehow the match ended without any major incident.”
It is learnt Mudgal would mention all these incidents of attempts to sabotage the Test match in his report to the Delhi High Court.
Incidentally, on December 18, the Delhi High Court appointed Mudgal to oversee all the international matches, to be hosted by the DDCA at the Kotla, till 31 March. But this time, Mudgal would be wiser from his experience and would be aware of the games some people at the DDCA are capable of playing, even it means embarrassing their own association.