The ICC Champions Trophy, which is currently on, is a forerunner to the ICC World Cup, also scheduled to be played in England in 2019. The weather in England has always been a bit unpredictable. It can come in the way of good contests or interrupt a game that is delicately poised, and thus upset the rhythm of the players who hate stop-start situations while playing a match.
Unfortunately, this time the weather has played a major role in the Champions Trophy, where only the top eight in the ICC rankings get to participate. While most teams in a competition like this are well matched, there will always be some teams that will be weakened by injuries and loss of form of some of their players. These teams will hope that the English weather comes to their rescue, whereby they either win by the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method or share points with oppositions that are stronger than them on paper after the match is washed out.
No competition should depend on the weather, but the current Champions Trophy has invariably been affected by bad weather, and so some teams have benefited from it while others have suffered because of it.
Australia, for example, will consider themselves unlucky not to have been able to complete the 20 overs of their batting which would have given them a win over Bangladesh by the DLS method. However, they will be thanking their stars for the rain that curtailed their match against New Zealand. Since Australia didn’t bat 20 overs, the trans-Tasman rivals shared the points.
The South Africa match against Pakistan also was affected by rain, but Pakistan won by the DLS method. If the match had gone the full distance, South Africa perhaps would have fancied their chances of winning.
The much awaited India versus Pakistan clash was also interrupted by rain so many times that the players lost their rhythm. Despite having to chase over 300 runs, Pakistan could have sneaked to victory if the match had been reduced to 20 overs. Teams generally know that they really cannot be dismissed in 20 overs, so they can afford to go slam-bang from the first ball and get to the revised target easily. Pakistan’s decision to field first was not only to help their fast bowlers take advantage of any moisture under the surface but also to rob India of victory if rains took away most of the game hours and reduced the match to 20 overs. After all, it is easier chasing down the readjusted 20-over target.
This not only frustrates the players but also the spectators and supporters, with their team unable to get full points or losing a match they could have won if it had gone the distance.
With the experience of this year’s event, the ICC would do well to look at the dates of the 2019 World Cup in England. It is understood that the host nations will make sure that their commitments to the sponsors and broadcasters of their domestic season is not affected by a world event, and so the world events will be played either before or after the domestic season. However, what has been seen in recent times in England is that the weather can be dodgy until the middle of June, but gets better and more predictable from the third week of the month, and the rains hardly ever disrupt matches. So if the ICC can urge the ECB to start the World Cup by mid-June and finish it by mid-July then it will have results, where teams have won on merit and not by the DLS method. Winning by the DLS method is never a true indication of a team’s strength.
That the ICC did not take a cue from what happened in the Champions Trophy four years ago, where rain had a major role to play, is a bit disappointing. However, hopefully, having seen what is happening currently, they will take necessary steps to ensure that the World Cup starts later, thereby giving the teams the chance to play full and proper matches.
Sure, given the unpredictability of the English weather, it could still rain in July but the important thing is to try and ensure that matches don’t get affected by the weather as it has been happening in early June for decades now.
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