The BCCI has barred the Services team from taking any further part in the 2009-10 Ranji Trophy season after it refused to play its opening Ranji Trophy game against Jammu and Kashmir in Srinagar. The team, which is controlled by India's defence ministry, opted out of the Plate division game and did not travel to the city. Further action against Services will be decided upon by the BCCI's working committee.
PTI reported on Tuesday night that Services issued an apology - and an offer to play the match in Srinagar on fresh dates - which the BCCI rejected but this could not be confirmed. "We have taken the decision to disqualify the Services team...since the decision has already been taken we will not change it," BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla was quoted as saying.
Board secretary N Srinivasan confirmed that the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB), which manages all sports teams of the Indian defence forces, had been disqualified from the tournament for this season. "Action will be taken according to our rules," he said. "The SSCB has been disqualified from participating in the 2009-10 edition of the Ranji Trophy, in accordance with the rules of the BCCI pertaining to domestic tournaments. A decision on any further action against the SSCB will be taken by the BCCI's Working Committee."
Apart from the expulsion from the Ranji Trophy, the decision means no Services players will be considered for the zonal tournaments like Duleep, nor will they receive match fees.
No official reason has been given for the pullout but officials and media reports have both speculated that the team, which comprises mostly of defence personnel, failed to turn up due to security reasons. "We believe security could have been the reason why they (Services) pulled out," Shukla told Cricinfo.
Jammu and Kashmir, which has been a hotbed of militant activity for the past two decades, has not hosted a Ranji match since 2004. When asked whether the BCCI felt it was safe enough to start scheduling matches again from this year, Shukla said, "Of course."
The pullout seems to have taken the hosts by surprise. Ehsan Mirza, treasurer of the J&K Cricket Association, said his colleagues had checked with Services last week whether they needed any help with accommodation and other issues but were told Services had already made arrangements at the 15 Corps base in Srinagar.
"In fact, they even told us that their team would arrive any day between October 30 and November 1," he told Cricinfo. "After that there was no communication from their side. We tried calling their secretary many times but there was no word. Today all of us, including the match referee and umpire, were waiting for the Services team but there has been on official word from them."
J&K captain Vinayak Mane also said he was aware only on the morning of the match that the opposition was not going to turn up. "I don't know why Services isn't travelling to Srinagar. If security was the problem, they should have raised the issue since BCCI released the schedule long ago," he said. "It's big for cricket in the valley. The pitch in Srinagar is newly laid and there was excitement here. This match would have been a big boost for cricket here."
Farooq Abdullah, the president of the Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA), said he had heard that Services had been advised not to travel to Srinagar. "When everyone else is here, including guest players and umpires, how is it that they can't come?" he told the Times Now television channel. "It completely negates what the prime minister, home minister and defence minister say. I am going to take this up very seriously with the government of India and I am going to tell the prime minister and defence minister that this will not do."
The Ranji Plate Division match was scheduled at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium, which last hosted a one-day international against West Indies in 1986. The last first-class game in Srinagar was in 2004 against Orissa. The next fixture scheduled here is against Haryana on November 10.