With farm fires raging across north-western India, the outlook for Sunday evening, when India take on the visitors in the first T20 International, is grim. While BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said the Kotla T20I will go ahead despite the pollution, he agreed that scheduling of matches in the northern part of the country — especially during this time of the year — needs to be a little more practical in the future.

“In the future, when we schedule, especially in the northern part of India during the winter, we will have to be a little bit more practical,” Ganguly told reporters at Eden Gardens.

He added that it’s now “too late” to make a switch from Kotla.

“It’s too late to do anything, because a lot of preparations go into matches tickets, crowds everything… So it’s not possible to cancel things at the last minute. Fingers crossed,” the BCCI president said. “I hope the match gets through. I spoke to the DDCA and they are confident to get through it. I know post-Diwali it’s a bit tough in the North. As I said, fingers crossed. It’s too late to change. I hope everything goes fine.”

Ganguly, though, has received assurance from the Kotla ground staff. “I spoke to the groundsman. He says once the sun comes out, it will be fine. He was my groundsman in Delhi Capitals. I know him well, so he said everything will be fine. We want the game to happen.”

Post-Diwali, Delhi’s air is ‘severe’ as usual. Back in December 2017, when Kotla had hosted a Test between India and Sri Lanka, a lot of Sri Lankan players wore face masks. Some of them gasped for breath and needed on-field treatment. And yet, the first match of the upcoming home series against Bangladesh was slotted in Delhi, on the heels of Diwali. Three T20Is and two Tests would be played in the series, with Rajkot and Nagpur being the venues for the second and the third T20Is, and Indore and Kolkata hosting the two Tests.

After registering the new BCCI constitution, the Committee of Administrators (CoA), which helmed the cricket board till the October 23 elections, had disbanded almost all the committees and sub-committees. The BCCI’s tours and fixtures committee used to be in charge of finalising the itinerary for the home season. This time, scheduling for the ongoing home season apparently missed the post-Diwali Delhi air pollution issue.

And as Ganguly said, the elected office-bearers took charge only about a week ago and cancellation wasn’t an option at such short notice. “The match was already scheduled, so we couldn’t cancel it at the last minute because we came in on October 23.”

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India’s stand-in captain for the T20I series, Rohit Sharma, however, played down the pollution issue, with regards to playing the match at Kotla. “We didn’t have any problem when we played the Test match here (against Sri Lanka). We are not aware of the exact discussion and I haven’t had any problem,” Rohit said during a promotional event in the capital.

Earlier, cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir had said pollution was a far more serious issue than having a game of cricket. “I’m not really bothered whether the match will happen or not. I hope it happens and it should happen, but again it’s the thing which is throughout the year that Delhi people face. It is far more concerning than the match,” Gambhir was quoted as saying.

Shastri and NCA

Meanwhile, Ganguly said the BCCI would create a system to ensure that the Indian team head coach Ravi Shastri has more involvement in the National Cricket Academy (NCA). “We will also create a system where Ravi’s involvement is more at the NCA till the time he is coach. We will make it a good Centre of Excellence. We have Rahul Dravid, Paras (Mhambrey), Bharat Arun…”

During his NCA visit yesterday, the BCCI president had a separate meeting with the NCA director, Dravid, to find out “what is the way forward”.