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Another Day, Another Washout, Leaves World Cup Hanging on a Prayer

R Kaushik |June 15, 2019, 10:06 AM IST
Another Day, Another Washout, Leaves World Cup Hanging on a Prayer

Nottingham: Undaunted at the prospect of no play at all staring them in the face, nearly 15,000 spectators, mostly Indian supporters, turned up in and around Trent Bridge on a miserable Thursday. They cheered every time the covers guarding the square came off, and perked up when Marais Erasmus and Paul Reiffel made hourly visits to the middle to inspect the underfoot conditions. Between these flutters of brief excitement, they found means to keep themselves entertained, hoping against hope that the wet spell in England would relent enough for at least a truncated face-off between India and New Zealand. All to no avail.

A third no-result in four days has thrown a wet blanket over the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. After a solid if uneventful first week, just when the tournament was beginning to gather steam, the fickle and often unpredictable weather decided to intervene, with devastating effect. Forecasters are predicting that this could be the wettest June on record in this country, with heavy rain expected to lash England and trigger potential flooding.

No sport is more susceptible to the vagaries of nature than cricket, strange idiosyncrasies and all. Few other outdoor sports are half as reliant on good weather; the first hint of rain, especially, sends cricketers scurrying to the safe confines of the dressing-room while the ground staff hare in the opposite direction, lugging covers to protect the playing surface and the extended square whose well-being is paramount to a game of cricket.

Admittedly, given the parameters that shape cricket, there is little man can do against the fury of nature. ‘Rain stops play’ is a typically everyday phrase during the English cricketing summer. And, like in most other countries – India is a notable exception – cricket is a summer sport in England too.

BANvSL Rain

Could the organisers have done anything different to prevent this plethora of washouts? In the first 11 editions of the World Cup, only two matches were abandoned before the toss. Thursday’s no-show has already made it the third such instance this tournament alone, with the threat of more lying in wait.

There has been a massive clamour for reserve days for each of the 45 league games, a clamour that is bound to snowball into unchecked cacophony if Sunday’s high-voltage showdown between India and Pakistan in Manchester were to be consigned to a wet, unsatisfactory end. On the face of it, a reserve day might appear a prudent move, but when one factors in 45 matches, the tournament is certain to become unwieldy. Already, this World Cup is 46 days long; reserve days for each of the league ties, even if several of them are bundled into double-headers, will extend it by another month at the very least and make it a two-and-a-half-month jamboree.

That’s just one of several logistical nightmares. David Richardson, the outgoing chief executive of the International Cricket Council, detailed the other challenges that reserve days apart from during the knockout phase will bring with them.

“It would impact pitch preparation, team recovery and travel days, accommodation and venue availability, tournament staffing, volunteer and match officials’ availability, broadcast logistics and very importantly the spectators who in some instances have travelled hours to be at the game,” the former South African wicketkeeper pointed out. “There is also no guarantee that the reserve day would be free from rain either.”

rain

The format of this tournament also largely negates the possibility of any of the teams being short-changed by the weather, unless they are really, really unfortunate. Each of the ten participating sides is slated to play nine league games, enough to recover either from a stuttering start or from the odd washout or three. One would have to be extremely unlucky to have four or five matches hit by the weather; if that were the case, given this protracted burst of rains, the reserve day too would most likely have provided little succor.

Does this mean nothing could have been done about this unfortunate fallout of the conspiracy of the elements? It could most certainly have, if the Ashes was still not considered the showpiece event of the cricketing season here. The deeper one gets into the English summer, the brighter the possibility of good weather.

The pre-eminence of the World Cup should have attracted a later start to the competition, because July-August is most often the best time to play cricket in this part of the world. That the World Cup has had to be scheduled around the Ashes to ensure that the England-Australia Test series remains unaffected by the weather to the extent possible is somewhat disappointing, because the 50-over World Cup remains world cricket’s flagship event and must be treated with the respect that its stature commands.

For now, though, the success of this tournament rests on a wing, and plenty of prayers. Most stakeholders will still enjoy financial windfalls even in the event of continued washouts, but the stakeholders who matter the most, the fans, will have every reason to feel they have been badly let down. And if their patience starts to wear thin, then who knows what catastrophic outcomes could eventuate.

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Cricket World Cup Points Table

Pos Team P W L T/NR PTS NRR
1
NZ
5 4 0 1 9 +1.59
2
ENG
5 4 1 0 8 +1.86
3
AUS
5 4 1 0 8 +0.81
4
IND
4 3 0 1 7 +1.02
5
BAN
5 2 2 1 5 -0.27
6
SL
5 1 2 2 4 -1.77
7
WI
5 1 3 1 3 +0.27
8
SA
6 1 4 1 3 -0.19
9
PAK
5 1 3 1 3 -1.93
10
AFG
5 0 5 0 0 -2.08

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 5720 124
2 India 5990 122
3 New Zealand 4121 114
4 South Africa 4647 111
5 Australia 4805 109
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 Australia 5471 261
5 India 7273 260
see more