Qaiser Mohammad Ali
Bishan Singh Bedi, who as captain guided Delhi to Ranji Trophy finals four times and won the title twice between 1976-77 and 1980-81, on Thursday asked Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to help in cleaning the Delhi and District Cricket Association.
Bedi, who along a few former Delhi players discussed the same issues with Kejriwal a few days ago, said at a press conference that the “DDCA is terribly not conducive to host international matches”. The former India captain was referring to the scheduled India-South Africa Test match allotted to the DDCA, beginning on 3 December.
The match is in some doubt due to a huge tax demand slapped on the DDCA, which is virtually bankrupt at the moment due to its own making. It currently has Rs 13,o00 in its hands.
Bedi, however, made it clear that he was raising these issues with a “heavy heart” because if the match was eventually relocated to Pune or Rajkot, centres the BCCI has asked to be on standby, the loss would be of Delhi fans.
“It was expected, this was bound to happen,” Bedi, in his capacity as president of the NCT Cricket Association, said, referring to the BCCI ultimatum of the 17 November deadline for the DDCA to either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to staging the five-day Test.
DDCA, as is mandatory, has to take permissions from several agencies of Delhi government, like entertainment, municipal, fire etc., without which an international match cannot be staged at the Ferzoshah Kotla Stadium.
The entertainment department, for instance, has slapped a demand of Rs 24.46 crore on DDCA, apparently for dues going back several years.
“This has been going on for so many years with, so many errors and such glaring inefficacy that somebody had to take notice and stand up. I am glad to say this that the present chief minister of Delhi [Kejriwal] has genuinely felt the need to know what the hell is going on,” Bedi said at the Press Club of India in New Delhi.
“As cricketers we are grateful that Mr Arvind Kejriwal has shown remarkable acumen to find out and go to the bottom of it all,” said Bedi.
The legendary left-arm spinner pointed it out and appealed that his crusade should not be seen as political move as Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party had defeated the BJP in Delhi assembly elections in February and the BJP has a hold on the DDCA.
“Our aim is not to politicise this particular press conference. We were asked by Arvind ji that if the Test match does not happen here then who will be at a loss. We said the people of Delhi will be at loss — because Ferozeshah Kotla belongs to the people of the capital not to a particular individual,” he said.
“We were able to convey to him that with a heavy heart… we feel that the situation today, the conditions prevailing in the parent body, that is DDCA, is not terribly conducive to organise a Test match which is an international event.”
Bedi also took a jibe at the DDCA administrators, saying that they have failed to even get an appointment with Kejriwal. “If the present set-up would have had strength then they would have got an appointment with Mr. Kejriwal. Even DDCA captain Gautam Gambhir got an appointment with the chief minister,” he said.
Gambhir met Kejriwal on Thursday, further fuelling speculation about the reason he had sought the meeting with the chief minister. Some people linked this meeting with the ongoing DDCA issues.
Claiming that the BCCI was also worried over the DDCA issues, Bedi said there was a need for the BCCI to set up a special committee to run its affairs, like it has done in Rajasthan’s case.
“That is what BCCI believes. That is why BCCI in the last meeting told Pune to be ready. This anticipation comes from the BCCI. I don’t want Delhi to be deprived of a Test but this has come from the BCCI that DDCA needs to procure these permissions before November 17 [the deadline],” he said. “The BCCI should be wide awake to the fact that they are running Rajasthan Cricket Association, so why can’t they appoint their own committee to run the affairs of DDCA.”
Bedi seemed peeved that the Prime Minister’s Office had not acted in the DDCA’s corruption issue.
“This fight is not new. We had sent a letter to the Prime Minister way back in July 2014. We are still awaiting a reply. Of course, the PM of the country has lot more pressing engagements than to divulge and find out the ills of DDCA,” Bedi said. “I would have thought surely some concern for cricket in the capital could have been made public by the PMO. But we are not complaining against the PMO, but we are extremely grateful that Arvind Kejriwal has taken it up upon himself.”
Apart from Bedi and Akash Lal, who chose to call the DDCA a “cricketing slum”, former India ODI player Surinder Khanna spoke at the press conference while renowned, Dronacahrya Award-winning coach Gurcharan Singh was also on the dais.
Bedi said that Kirti Azad, who is leading this ‘crusade’ against the DDCA, could not make it as he had to urgently go to Kolkata.
NCT Cricket Association Sameer Bahadur raised a serious issue of an underground sewer line that he claimed passes right through the Ferozeshah Kotla, particularly under the building that houses teams’ dressing rooms and the pitch.
Bahadur claimed this sewer has been deliberately punctured by some people in the DDCA and the District Disaster Management Authority’s Report is being looked into for determining the safety of the stadium and spectators who come to watch matches.
“How a 1,650 mm sewer line that passes through and under the wicket and the Kotla Stadium was illegally punctured? In an international match about 42,000 people watch the action and their lives were at a risk. We are sure Mr Kejriwal would not want to risk the lives of so many people,” he said.