Snake disrupts play at Barsapara stadium in Guwahati

Mismanagement at Assam Cricket Association ensured that an international T20 match between India and South Africa – beamed live across the world – was interrupted twice. First, a snake intruded the field of play while South Africa were fielding. And later, when they were batting, one of the floodlight towers went off!

The Assam Cricket Association – infamous for its ‘mobile flashlights trying to dry up the pitch’ analogy when another international match between India and Sri Lanka was abandoned in 2020 due to a porous pitch cover and a ‘school-boy error’ – has now said that the “snake was also enjoying the match and wanted a closer look of the players”.

Bringing shame to the state in front of an international audience, the match organizing committee, which was led by Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, now has this excuse: “Regarding the two incidents… In some places we see streakers, in some other places we see intruders into the ground from the stands. But here we have a different thing that is a snake. I am sure the snake was also enjoying the match and wanted a closer look of the players,” said Assam Cricket Association secretary Devajit Saikia.

In the seventh over of the first innings when India were batting, a couple of South African players pointed the snake intrusion to KL Rahul, who was then batting, and the on-field umpires. The ground staff then rushed in and sorted the problem with a stick.

Live pictures of the incident were seen by millions. Netizens soon trended #Guwahati and #snake with jokes on the cricket administration, among others.

“I am sure the snake was enjoying and trying to get a closer view of the players scoring runs. Six and fours from every ball. The snake must have been very unhappy when one of our curating members, Mr Boro, he sprang into action in no time and caught hold of it and put him outside the playing arena,” added Saikia, trying to steer clear of the controversy.

Interestingly, another snake was spotted just before the play began on October 2. Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle, who was at the Basapara Stadium in Guwahati, soon tweeted: “That is a first for me. A second snake on the ground. But the staff seemed prepared! Quick pick-up and off!”

It was for “an experienced” ground staff Digambor Boro, who ensured that the interruption in play – and the shame in front of an international audience – was short-lived as he ensured that the snake was given a “quick pick-up and (send) off”.

Incidentally, around 10 days prior to the match, a snake was found at the control room of the Barsapara stadium. “Ten days prior to the match, we found a snake in the control room of the stadium. Me and my colleagues rescued it and so we were on alert for a reoccurrence of a similar incident. The safety of the reptile is also a high priority,” Boro said.

If the snake slithering onto the field during India’s innings was not enough, the worst was in store when the stadium went into partial darkness during South Africa’s chase of the massive target of 238, causing a second interruption in the match.

The Assam Cricket Association official termed the floodlight failure as a technical issue and “not a big incident.”

“I don’t think it is a big incident. One MCB tripped and it was put back to the normal position and I think as we don’t have LED system in the stadium. It was an all-metal system so we are going to replace in next two-three months time, and to bring the light to its full form it takes about 10-15 minutes that is why delay was for 12-15 minutes,” Assam Cricket Association secretary Devajit Saikia explained.

In a match where bad weather was threatening to disrupt the proceedings, it turned out be a snake and ACA’s incompetence which brought the proceedings to a halt, even if only temporarily.

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