As soon as rain and World Cups appear in the same sentence, one cannot help but think of the 1992 World Cup when South Africa were almost robbed of the World Cup final berth due to the wrath of the rain gods.
The South Africa versus West Indies match at Southampton on Monday, 10 July, and the Bangladesh versus Sri Lanka match at Bristol on Tuesday, 11 July, were both rained off on successive days, with teams sharing one point each.
Likewise, the Pakistan versus Sri Lanka match at Bristol on 7 June was rained off as well. With three rained-off matches, the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup has already become the edition with the most abandoned matches since the tournament's inception in 1975.
The Afghanistan versus Sri Lanka match on 4 June had to be curtailed to 41 overs a side as well after rain disrupted play.
Couldn't ICC Have Scheduled The World Cup Differently?
With rain having such a big impact on the game, it is obvious that the general public as well as cricket analysts must question the reason behind such frequent disruptions and what can be done to improve this state of affairs.
The first question that people ask is that with all the meteorological technology available, weren’t we aware that rain would pour down heavily in June in the UK at the time when the schedule was drafted?
ICC CEO David Richardson cleared the air on the subject and put the speculations to rest:
"“This is extremely unseasonable weather. In the last couple of days we have experienced more than twice the average monthly rainfall for June, which is usually the third driest month in the UK. In 2018 there was just 2mm of rain in June but the last 24 hours alone has seen around 100mm fall in the south-east of England.”" - David Richardson, CEO, ICC
Reserve Day For Every Match?
Now that the weather can be fickle at any time, many have suggested accounting for it through reserve days for all matches. To state the obvious, this is not a very feasible option. The tournament already spans over 46 days with a total of 48 matches being played. Keeping reserve days for every match would almost mean doubling the length of the tournament, which is not a practical course of action.
"Factoring in a reserve day for every match at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup would significantly increase the length of the tournament and practically would be extremely complex to deliver.
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. There is also no guarantee that the reserve day would be free from rain either," Richardson said in his official statement.
With the current inclement weather in England and Wales, it would not come as a surprise if no cricket is possible even on the reserve day as the entire nation has been subjected to an unprecedented downpour throughout the last week.
How About Indoor Stadiums?
Some have suggested an alternative of indoor stadiums, like the Olympics, which is a super-expensive path to tread and might be the future of the game, but seems a bit far-fetched for now.
Cricket stadiums are generally owned by State Cricket Associations, Provincial Associations or counties which have limited funds at their disposal. This option is feasible only when the grounds are directly owned by the government, the national cricket associations or the ICC.
What’s the Remedy Then?
What can be done instead is to keep a 7-10 day gap between the group stage and the knockouts, so that all the matches that have been rained off or abandoned due to some other reason can be conducted during this time.
The reason behind giving a longer gap and not a four-five day window is that in case multiple matches of a particular team are abandoned, they have a gap of at least one or two days between those matches to fully recover and be on their 'A' game on match day.
Another thing that can be done is to keep a two-three day gap after every week of the World Cup and all the matches that have been abandoned can be held on those two days.
The biggest impediment to this recourse is the revenue side of things. The ground staff can very well remain on standby and ensure that the playing condition is top-notch for these rescheduled matches, but how the tickets will be sold for these games, whether the money for the abandoned games will be reimbursed or transferred for the rescheduled matches and how the television broadcasters will be affected by this arrangement are questions that require due deliberation.
(Saksham Mishra is a freelance sports journalist, justifying hours of watching sports by scribbling down a few logical lines that might just about hold your interest. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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