KOLKATA: With the BCCI chalking out a tentative domestic schedule, things are looking bright for cricket.
The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy is scheduled to start on November 19, while the Ranji Trophy is slated to get going on December 13. However, the game is likely to be back in India much earlier with age-groups and women’s matches in early November.
In this scenario, the BCCI’s Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) has come as a hindrance. The document suggests individuals who are over the age of 60 years, viz. support staff, umpires, ground staff and those with underlying medical conditions should be discouraged from participating in the camp activities until suitable guidelines are issued by the government.
While this raised question marks on availability of some state coaches like Dav Whatmore (Baroda) and Arun Lal (Bengal), this suggestion affects groundsmen in a much more direct manner. While the coaches can wait for conditions to improve till cricketers are allowed to hit the ground, the groundsmen do not have such luxury.
“The groundsmen have been working in this period,” a BCCI official said. With the grounds lying unused for months, the main job of the groundsmen now is regular cropping of grass and checking fungal growth.
“This is the first time we are getting such a long preparation time. Generally we need two to two-and-half month rest periods in between seasons, but that was never available,” a senior groundsman said. But in spite of getting that time, the pandemic had hurt proper work process.
Most associations are working with skeleton man power and this new guideline now puts at least six state curators, including BCCI elite panel member Taposh Chatterjee, under scanner.
However, veteran curator Daljit Singh feels these guidelines should not be taken ‘too seriously’. “These are just precautionary measures. It should be applicable only when camps and matches are on. During pre-season there’s no one on the ground. So it should not be a problem for a few groundsmen to work there,” the former BCCI chief curator felt. “However, if this situation prevails, then during players’ presence, curators can stay in their restricted areas and younger groundsmen can carry out operations,” Daljit added.
The state associations are now learnt to have been forced to review their ground preparation work on the basis of this SOP. Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) chief curator Sujan Mukherjee has stopped coming to the ground after this but is monitoring the work regularly. “This is an extraordinary situation,” he said. “I interact with the groundsmen over video call, where they show me the condition of the ground and I give them suggestions,” he added.
Affected curators:
East: Sujan Mukherjee (CAB)
South: Chandra Shekhar Rao (Hyderabad)
West: Ramesh Mhamunkar (Mumbai), Pandurang Salgaonkar (Pune)
Central: Taposh Chatterjee (Jaipur)
North: Jashmer Singh (Lali, Haryana)

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