World Cup 2019: Four factors to be considered to address weather interruptions
The ICC World Cup is under way in England and Wales, with 10 teams battling it out amongst themselves for the most coveted trophy in the sport. Being a quadrennial event, it promises huge excitement for the cricketing fraternity to watch the best of the class lock horns with each other over a course of one and a half months. This edition, too, has produced some riveting cricket, but some matches have been impacted by the weather conditions in UK.
As per forecasts, this year, the month is set to be the wettest June ever in England, even posing dangers for floods in the country. Rain has also played spoilsport in the biggest cricketing tournament, with 3 matches already being abandoned, and one ending in a no-result, at the expense of the fans and players.
This is a record for the most number of matches with no-result in a single edition of the World Cup, with the tournament still being half-way. In addition to this, there have been certain procedural anomalies, due to which the clash between India and New Zealand could not materialise, adding to the agony of the viewers.
Here are a few factors which should be given due importance in a global cricketing tournament.
#1 The venue and scheduling
Cricket is a game whose dynamics are heavily dependent upon the weather conditions prevailing in the ground. While cold conditions are favourable for swing, a moist outfield is beneficial for the batsmen. Weather also has a considerable amount of impact on the pitch. This makes it one of the most integral factors to be considered before organising a tournament.
England and Wales were awarded the hosting rights of the 2019 World Cup way back in 2006, as per the rotational policy of ICC, wherein every cricketing bloc gets the opportunity to host the World Cup at least once in 20 years. However, considering the unpredictable English weather or the way rain played spoilsport in Champions Trophy just a couple of years ago during the same time period. It resulted in Australia being eliminated majorly due to abandoned games, cricket's apex body could have reconsidered their opinion, in favour of the sport.
At the least, they could have rescheduled the tournament, organising it in early May, or postponing it to August, when the chances of rain were possibly lesser. It would be a real shame if the weather conditions deny a team a chance to make it to the next stage of the World Cup.
#2 Lights, covers, and logistics support
These factors are the pre-requisites which must be readily available at a venue hosting any international game. Lights are essential to make play possible even in the face of dim conditions, while covers make it possible to prevent the pitch and outfield from any damage due to rain. Covers are also required to be supplemented by ground rollers, to ensure apt conditions for a game. Logistics, too, form an integral component, for the smooth flow of operations.
The abandoned game between India and New Zealand was devoid of the required paraphernalia, coming in as a shock to the cricketing fraternity. ICC had to face the chiding from experts and fans for their level of preparedness for the marquee event.
The covers were placed only on the pitch and surrounding area, and not the entire ground, unlike at Eden Gardens, wherein the entire ground was covered when rain had disrupted an India-Pakistan encounter in World T20 2016.
The irony is, as explained by former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, that these covers are manufactured in England, and imported by India. This was due to unavailability of logistics and labour in the county of Nottingham, which raised concerns as to whether labour could have been outsourced from other counties. These full length covers, though available in Birmingham, could not be procured from there, possibly due to inefficient logistics support.
For a major part of the time, the game could not take place due to a wet outfield, which could have been averted had there been the requisite equipment. Further, the ground was not covered in the days leading up to the clash, even when there had been heavy rain.
#3 Flexibility in rules
Flexibility is another factor that must be addressed before organising a tournament having a magnitude like the World Cup. Even after the inefficient scheduling, many matches can be materliased, if ICC adds the dimension of flexibility to its procedures.
Having known the possibility of washout, venues of games can be shifted. Although, it is a herculean task, it has been done in the past in India, during IPL as well as international fixtures. If this is possible in normal games in a vast country like India, it is definitely possible in the World Cup, and in a country like England, having far lesser physical dimensions.
Another step that can be taken in this direction, is being proactive. A case in example to be reckoned here is the high voltage clash between India and Pakistan on 16th June in Manchester. The game is expected to start at 10.30 A.M. (local), but the chances of rain are more than 50% from 1 P.M., and come below 40% only after 7 P.M.
In such a case, a 50-over game would be redundant, as the match, in high probability, would end in a no-result. Hence, it would be better to start off with a 20-over game from the beginning, with the possibility of getting a result would be greater.
#4 Contingency cover for the fans
Cricket is a sport beamed with passionate fans, wherein individuals turn out in large numbers in the support of their teams, or to witness a niche brand of cricket. It is not the just the locals, or the non-resident communities in England, but fans across the length and breadth of different continents have made their way to cheer for their favourite sides in the marquee event.
It is really unfortunate and frustrating for these fans, when they are not able to witness a game of cricket, despite making it to the venue from far and wide. Sympathy in this case particularly goes to fans of Sri Lanka, who would have been distraught to see two games of their nation washed out.
Though ICC currently refunds ticket expenses in abandoned games, this expenditure is just a small fraction; the major chunk is spent on travelling, accommodation, and other means of sustenance during the period of foreign trip. Transliterating in economic terms, it also involves time and opportunity costs of the individuals.
While the time and opportunity costs cannot be refunded, ICC can certainly work on a mechanism for the fans to recoup their expenses, in case the game does not materialise in spite of the previously mentioned solutions.