(ESPNcricinfo) Problems with certain sections of the Central Broward Regional Park outfield, which West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite said were ‘unsafe’, was the deciding factor in calling off play in Sunday’s second T20I in Lauderhill. The India captain MS Dhoni had a slightly differing view and said he had played in worse conditions during his career.
Chasing a target of 144, India had reached 15 for 0 after two overs, but an intense 15-minute thunderstorm left huge puddles on the bowler’s run-up at the pavilion end of the ground. Another section on the edge of the 30-yard circle due west of the center of the pitch, a notoriously slow drying area due to an undulating ridge in that part of the field, also forced the hand of the match officials in calling off play, according to Brathwaite.
“There were about two or three,” Brathwaite said, when asked which areas of the field were a cause of concern. “Looking from the pavilion, the run-ups on that side and just beside the sponsor’s [painted ad on field] plus probably mid-on and then there was a little patch on the [west] side looking from the pavilion again.
“So in my opinion it was unsafe, and even if the run-ups were good and a guy hits a ball in the outfield in a fast-paced T20 game and he chases behind it and pulls something, that could be the end of a guy’s career. So not only will we want to play, we want the facilities and the atmosphere to be as safe for everyone’s career as possible. In my opinion, I don’t think it was and the umpires also made that decision as well.”
Contrary to Brathwaite’s assessment of conditions supporting the umpires’ decision to call off play, Dhoni hinted that he felt the outfield was safe enough that play could have continued. He said he had played in worse conditions during his career, citing the 2011 tour of England as an example.
“What the umpires told us, there was not adequate equipment over here and the condition of it was quite bad, so because the conditions wouldn’t improve we won’t be able to play a game,” Dhoni said. “That’s a call that the match officials have to make and as far as I’ve played close to 10 years of international cricket and frankly I’ve played under worse off conditions.
“If I remember in 2011, the whole ODI series that we played in England, it was literally playing under the rain. I feel definitely the conditions … ultimately the umpires decide so they decide you play, we play. If they say okay it was unfit for play, it was unfit for play.
“It was on this [west] side where me and Bravo were standing but it was far away from all the run-ups of the bowlers. There is no Shoaib Akhtar in their team so I don’t think it was a big concern.”
Fans were kept in the dark about the status of the game despite bright sunshine after the shower ended. An hour and five minutes later, the first indication the match would be called off was the hasty construction behind the pavilion sightscreen of the post-match presentation display. A few minutes later, Brathwaite and Dhoni walked onto the field for a final chat with umpires before shaking hands.
Even if the teams had waited another hour to see if the outfield would dry, the stadium’s lightning detector alarm sounded at about 3 pm, which would have produced a further delay as another thunderstorm approached the stadium. The alarm, in place for safety reasons by Florida state law, mandates that all players and fans must leave the field until receiving an all clear signal that the lightning threat has passed. A 50-minute delay occurred for a Caribbean Premier League game at the same stadium last month when lightning was detected in the area even though there was no rain forcing the pitch to be covered.
However, Sunday’s match could have come to a conclusion via Duckworth-Lewis method had there not been a 40-minute delayed start in the morning despite clear skies overhead. At the time of the delay, BCCI officials only said there was a “technical reason” for play to be held up, and when the issue was raised after the match was abandoned, they said a press release would be put out to clarify the matter, though none has yet been issued.
A source involved in game operations at the Central Broward Regional Park told ESPNcricinfo that the reason for the delay was a breakdown in the satellite connection link from the ground with the host broadcaster back in India. A message was initially posted on the stadium video board to say the match would start at 10.30 am. At about 10.23 am, a new message was given by the public address announcer saying the match would now start at 10.40 am, prompting boos as fans grew increasingly impatient because of the delay, one that eventually prevented a result.
*Another stadium official verified the reason for the delay and told ESPNcricinfo that the TV broadcast production team had to wait for a replacement production truck with satellite-link capabilities to arrive at the stadium and get hooked up before they could recover the signal and carry on with the broadcast, which in part accounted for the delay extending from the initial 30 minutes to 40 minutes in total.
“We were always working against time especially with the 40-minute delay beforehand,” Brathwaite said. “It was always difficult to get the ground in readiness for the time that was told to be cut off, so that was a major problem. The equipment that obviously will be had in years to come, because of the fantastic infrastructure that’s already in place, will then eliminate stuff like this from happening in the future.”
Brathwaite remained positive about the experience of playing in Florida and was optimistic that West Indies and other teams would make plans to return in spite of the drainage issues encountered on Sunday.
“The infrastructure, the facility, we came three or four days ago and there was nothing going up and today they are picking it back down,” Brathwaite said. “So they had stands built in no time, no injuries so obviously they were safe enough, and the outfield, barring the rain was perfect, lightning quick. The pitch was fantastic. It didn’t change too much over the course of yesterday and today, that’s 40, 62 overs odd, so that’s the basis of something positive.
“Now just little tweaks and little stuff to go into the actual infrastructure continuing what is already there, I can see a big future ahead not only for India v West Indies in America but for American cricket itself.
“I personally see some 50-over games being played here as well. We’ll probably get a team to break the 500-run barrier. So looking forward to it and yeah as I say, it bodes well for cricket in the United States. I love Fort Lauderdale and hope to be back soon.”
*August 29, 1.10pm GMT The story was amended to include the stadium official’s inputs
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo’s USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna