Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has complained bitterly to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) about what he called an "unpardonable" failure of a production house to connect satellite uplinks that delayed the second T20 ODI between India and the West Indies in Florida by nearly an hour.
The match was delayed by 50 minutes despite the weather being fairly bright and sunny, because Sunset and Vine, a top production house in charge of telecasting the game and supplying the game feed to Star Sports, the host broadcaster, failed to uplink signals.
"Dhoni's argument - based on ICC match guidelines - was that the match should start and not wait for the satellite signals. But the production house and, in turn, the host broadcaster, had a contrarian point of view," a top BCCI source said, adding that they merely said a technical glitch had help up the telecast.
Dhoni's annoyance was evident, ostensibly because the Indian skipper was informed by some members of the Star Sports production team - assisting Sunset and Vine - that the glitch was because the latter was unable to uplink the feed for the match to Star Sports for the game to start.
Dhoni, claimed the source, even argued that long delays like these could severely impact the outcome of the match, but to no avail.
The ICC has only three guidelines for delays, ranging from rain, poor light and unfit playing surfaces. Dhoni's argument was that the delay in Fort Lauderdale didn't fall under any of these.
Interestingly, Ranjan Madugalle, on-field umpires Joel Wilson and Leslie Reifer, and third umpire Nigel Duguid took a subjective call and informed the ICC representative on the ground. The decision, expectedly, didn't go down well with the Indian skipper.
The source said that the Indian skipper argued for long for the match to start, but the production house "kept buying time from Dhoni, saying their technicians would be able to fix the problem". Eventually, Dhoni accepted the argument of Sunset and Vine, but was "extremely miffed".
The source said it was probably for the first time in the history of cricket that a match was delayed because of satellite failure. An India-Sri Lanka ODI at Hobart, Australia, on 28 February, 2012, was delayed due to power failure. In 2011, Neo Sports ran into legal issues with the host broadcasters, Doordarshan, and missed broadcasting the first 2.5 overs of the first ODI between India and England.
The source further said the atmosphere outside the Indian dressing room was gloomy and right after the match was abandoned, the Indian skipper complained to the BCCI officials about the fiasco.
"Dhoni's argument was simple. He wanted to know if it was within the rules to delay the match because of a satellite failure. He wanted to know what happens to those who are in the ground, and had bought expensive tickets for the match," the source further said.
It was not immediately known whether the broadcaster had waited for the satellite uplink because of financial considerations. Indian cricket matches are the highest sponsored across the world, with multiple brands buying airtime to showcase their products. Hence, it is not an easy job for a broadcaster to start telecasting 45 minutes into the match.
But those connected with big bucks advertising on television had a totally different point of view. In the Indian capital, top advertising honcho Sunil Gupta said the situation in Florida merited a serious re-look. "While the game is important, equally crucial is the cash that goes into setting up the games. Both go hand in hand and one cannot be ignored over the other," said Gupta.
"Its through advertisers' cash that Indians get to watch world class sports for peanuts, unlike other countries where sports channels come at a premium. You cannot ignore the demands of a channel to delay the match due to a technical glitch," said Gupta.
Cricket cognoscenti agreed that if the match had started on time, the game would have been past the halfway mark of its second innings. After all, only five overs in each innings are required to be bowled for a result in T20 matches.
Star Sports, it is reliably learnt, has asked ICC to explain reasons for the delay in satellite uplinking. In the Indian capital, a BCCI spokesperson said Star Sports had explained "technical difficulties" at the start of the telecast, and that he had no more comments to offer. The spokesperson did not explain whether or not BCCI was aware of the nature of the technical glitch. Repeated efforts to seek comments from Star Sports officials proved futile.
The Dubai-based International Cricket Council (ICC), the game's controlling body, said through a press note that it will discuss the fiasco in Florida in its annual workshop for match officials next month. "The officials will be discussing a wide range of topics, including the second T20I in Florida," the note said.
The ICC had awarded the contract to produce its live coverage of events for three years, including 2016's T20 competition and the 2019 World Cup to Sunset and Vine. The decision followed the independent production house’s successful coverage of London 2012 Paralympics coverage, and BT’s Premier League football and Premier rugby union matches.