Dear ICC, Rain Gods Punishing the World Cup is Karma For Your Scheduling Greed
The International Cricket Council did all the accounting to fill its coffers, but fate has taken a rain check.
People take shelter as rain stops play at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. (Photo Credit: Reuters)
For sports organisers, what’s best for the fans is often ignored in the face of what the sponsors and the broadcasters want. This is a sad reality that has been grudgingly accepted over the years, not just in cricket, but all sports. That’s where the money comes from, after all.
But this edition of the ICC World Cup is perhaps the starkest example of how far that balance has been tipped against spectators, especially the match-going ones.
Just two weeks in, and three matches have already been abandoned – two of them without a ball being bowled and the third, after a little over seven overs.
That is more than any other edition of the tournament in history. And this unwanted record is likely to extend further if the forecast for the next week comes true, as it has so far.
The ICC would tell you things were out of its hands, that it could not have predicted this “extremely unseasonable weather”, as its Chief Executive David Richardson put it on Tuesday.
To be fair, the weather has been unseasonable. The last couple of days have experienced more than twice the average monthly rainfall for June.
But then, if you would ask anybody in England to describe the English weather in one word, they would probably say unpredictable.
And yet, only two matches were totally abandoned due to rain in the World Cups held before this in the island nation. Were the weather Gods kind then? Kinder? Possibly. Kind? No.
So what’s the secret then? How matches were played and completed before, but seem impossible now? The answer is reserve days.
Previous incarnations of the tournament factored in rain playing spoilsport and kept reserve days for when it poured. So in 1979, the Sri Lanka vs West Indies match was abandoned only after the two reserve days too were washed out. In 1999, the number of reserve days were cut down to one, but they were still kept.
It was in 2003 that the policy of reserve days was scrapped entirely. It was risky then too as two games were washed out in that tournament. But it seems the organisers will only pay the full cost of that decision now as not having them in England is nothing but foolhardy.
The ICC would tell you that keeping a reserve day for every rain-affected World Cup match is practically impossible considering the length of the tournament. It would increase the duration of the tournament further and impact travel and accommodation of teams and hamper preparations by venue managers.
And yet, it was still possible to keep reserve days till the 1999 World Cup, which had 42 matches, just six less than the 2019 World Cup. One would hope that ICC’s expertise in organising a tournament would only have improved in these 20 years.
But alas, it doesn’t seem so. Despite having just 10 teams in this World Cup - six fewer than 2007 and four fewer than 2011 and 2015, the length of the tournament is the second longest ever. So ICC should not get to cite the length of the tournament as an excuse.
The tournament’s scheduling, which has already come for criticism for excluding the smaller nations, it seems was designed solely to secure financial interest.
Informed by the World Cup of 2007, when both India and Pakistan were knocked out in the group stage, the ICC vowed never again will it be denied returns from the most lucrative markets for cricket. So, the current format ensures nine matches for each participant. There will be no early departures.
To maximise revenues further, the ICC kept just one match on most days, unlike the two daily that was common earlier.
The council did all the accounting to fill its coffers, but fate has taken a rain check.
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