Odishatv Bureau

Dharamsala: The first ODI between India and South Africa was on Thursday abandoned without a ball being bowled due to incessant rain here and the rest matches are likely to be played in empty stadiums.

It was the second match in less than six months to be abandoned at the picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium because of inclement weather.

Incidentally, that match was also an India-South Africa clash in September last year.

The first ODI of the three-match series was always in doubt after the weatherman forecast widespread rains and thundershowers over the region on Thursday and Friday because of fresh western disturbance over north Pakistan and adjoining Jammu and Kashmir.

Fans and organisers had offered prayers at the Indrunag Temple in the hills overlooking the stadium in an attempt to appease the rain gods.

Heavy rain had also lashed the hill town just after the two teams' practice sessions on Wednesday, forcing the organisers to cover the entire playing area.

If that was not enough, it rained the entire night on the eve of the match.

It was overcast for major part of the day and heavens opened up just before the start. It rained on and off after that, forcing the toss to be delayed and bringing ground staff into action.

The rain was not that heavy but was enough for water to accumulate, forcing organisers to press three super-soppers into action.

But despite working tirelessly, the ground staff failed to clear the ground, forcing the on-field umpires to call off the match.

The cut-off time for a 20-over game was 6.30 pm (IST) but the on-field umpires made their final inspection and decided to abandon the match much before that.

The novel coronavirus outbreak and adverse weather conditions affected ticket sales as well.

The second ODI of the series will be played in Lucknow on March 15 while the third and final match will be in Kolkata's iconic Eden Gardens on March 18.

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The remaining two one-dayers between India and South Africa are likely to be played in empty stadiums in Lucknow and Kolkata due to the dreaded novel coronavirus pandemic.

The sports ministry has issued an advisory that in case it's unavoidable to postpone a sporting event, then it is preferable that it be conducted without a large public gathering.

"The BCCI is in receipt of the sports ministry's advisory. Obviously, if we are advised to avoid large gatherings, we will have to abide by it," a BCCI source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

Later in the day, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said if the BCCI approached it regarding the fate of IPL matches, the government's stand would be "there should be no ticket sales".

He was speaking to reporters here about the coronavirus situation in the state, where 14 persons are confirmed to have been infected so far.

The Indian Premier League T20 cricket tournament is to start in Mumbai on March 29.

Asked whether it would proceed as per the schedule in view of the virus threat, Tope said, "There was discussion in the cabinet... tickets will (likely) not be sold. They (organisers) have two options, either postpone or hold matches without spectators.

"IPL revenue model is two per cent from ticket sales and 98 per cent from televised rights. If the BCCI asks us, our stand is there should be no ticket sales," he added.

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