Bhopal: Soaring temperatures forced a 7 a.m. start for the first quarterfinal -- between Punjab and Bihar -- in the senior hockey national championship while the other three fixtures would be staged late evening on Thursday.
Star-studded Air India will clash with another high-flier Karnataka at 5 p.m., followed by Jharkhand taking on Railways and Haryana squaring up against a young Orissa team under floodlights. The Air India-Karnataka match was also scheduled for the morning and that would have meant a 6 a.m. start, but it was revised after a meeting of the organizing committee Wednesday.
The four quarterfinals were to be played on two grounds. The new Mayur Park Stadium, which was to host some matches, is still not ready, and that has compounded the problems. The SAI centre, which has two synthetic turfs, is at some distance from the city and the organizers have decided to hold all the quarterfinals at the Aishbagh Stadium in the heart of the city to attract a good crowd.
Tournament director Shakeel Qureshi said the unbearable heat forced the organisers to reschedule the matches. "It is so hot that we cannot play two matches in the morning. Also, the organisers feel that the Air India-Karnataka match should be played in the evening as it is a potential crowd puller," Qureshi told IANS.
"Punjab wanted to play in the morning and so we decided to shift the second match to the evening." There is, however, some respite from the heat after heavy rains lashed the city early Wednesday. Asked whether unavailability of the new stadium was the reason for rescheduling the fixture, Qureshi said: "That is for the organisers to answer."