World Cup 2019: Who will fight the rain?

A full ground cover, a SubAir system or perhaps man power, England and Wales may need to buck up on their Cup preparation for the remaining games.

Indian cricket fans look on as the showers continue at Trent Bridge, not allowing a ball to be bowled in the India-New Zealand match on Thursday.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The English weather is known for being whimsical. There are instances of cricket matches spilling over to the next day; the India-England Birmingham clash in World Cup 1999 is one. But there are no reserve days in the league stages of the 2019 edition. 

It was not a problem until the washout count increased to three, thereby making it the wettest World Cup in history.

Read | IND v PAK: Weather looks promising for marquee clash

Ahead of the India-Pakistan clash — the match of the tournament — in Manchester on Sunday, Sportstar contacted pitch curators and a ground cover manufacturer in the United Kingdom to understand the plan that is needed to fight the rain. 

A full ground cover, man power

Sujan Mukherjee, the curator at the majestic Eden Gardens in Kolkata, remembers the narrow escape in his first big assignment in 2016. But the “full ground cover” purchased from England for Rs 78 lakh saved him.

“Oh! the ICC World T20 Indo-Pak match. The worst possible situation that you can get into. It was raining throughout that week. We could not uncover the ground at all, but our groundsmen worked hard to make it ready on time; only four overs [two in each innings] was lost.

“There are almost 100 to 110 people working at Eden during a rain-affected game. We have always been prepared for showers. During monsoons, we cover the ground everyday. It becomes a recce for us during a tournament. Having man power is important but they also need to know their job,” he said.

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Mukherjee also highlighted the nuances of stadium-keeping. You can’t keep the entire ground covered forever. “It is essential to understand that uncovering the ground is as important as covering it. If you keep the ground covered for a long time, it may lead to moisture. You need a lot of people to release water, use the super soppers and the entire process that is followed to dry the ground.” 

Former India captain Sourav Ganguly — who is the current president of the Cricket Association of Bengal — had helped Mukherjee buy the ground cover. “It is not heavy and very user-friendly. When I became the curator, I had immediately told Ganguly about this requirement. Since he has played the game, he understood the need and got it done. No match has been abandoned here in the last three years,” he added.

Mukherjee feels the England and Wales authorities could have prepared better for the World Cup. “It is strange they don’t know their weather.”

SubAir system

The M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru is a notch higher. It installed the SubAir subsurface aeration and vacuum-powered drainage system in 2017 to combat the rain. 

Despite incessant rain, thunder and lightning, the Karnataka State Cricket Association was still able to host a five-over IPL match that, unfortunately, eliminated Royal Challengers Bangalore in this season.

The new drainage system at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru evacuates water from the ground at the rate of 10,000 litres per minute, and carries it to the venue’s rainwater harvesting system.   -  FILE PHOTO/ G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

“We can dry the ground in 15 minutes. There is a suction pump that takes the water out through heavy pipes. It has been giving us good results. It is expensive, costs close to Rs 3.5 to Rs 4 crore, but if you install that in the ground, no matches will be abandoned,” KSCA curator Sriram Kasturi enlightened on its advantages.

KSCA installed the system through an agency in India. And it doesn’t need to cover the full ground. “The SubAir system does the whole job. We just cover the wickets.”

The system can also pump in oxygen for the health of the grass. It also prevents the ground from turf diseases.

Ground reality in the UK

Total-Play, a leading designer and manufacturer of sports surface ground covers and growth systems in the UK, has provided multiple covers and domes to the English counties. 

None of the matches that were washed out in the World Cup had the ground fully covered; only the wicket and the adjacent area remained under the dome.

A view of the cover as the game between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka stood abandoned on June 11.   -  GETTY IMAGES


“The Oval, Hampshire, Surrey, Middlesex, Notts... most do have something from us. Each ground use slightly different techniques though, some only use ground covers, others use dome covers assisted by ground covers, so we supply whatever they need,” said Lee Bennet, a consultant at Total-Play.

The wet Nottingham outfield could not even allow a reduced-over game for India and New Zealand. Didn’t they have enough equipment to cover the ground? “Sad, yes. Maybe not an entire ground cover, but they have enough cover to protect the important parts of the playing area.”

Talking about the expenses behind a full ground cover, Bennet pointed that it varies. “It is a huge expense and each club has a budget for different things. Outfields generally have good drainage and are not geared up for consistent rain.

“All the grounds are different in size with varying drainage systems. There are also different materials that can be used for this; the pricing is different in that case. I guess you would need no less than 20 to 30 covers of varying sizes to cover and entire ground.”

Ganguly, who is in the commentary panel, said the bad light due to the cloud cover made it worse in Nottingham. “The match was called off not only because of the rain — but it has been raining continuously for the past three days. The two reasons for the delay were firstly, the wet pitch and secondly, something that the viewers on screen can’t see is how dark the ground is, the match can’t begin in such a dark setting,” he told Star Sports.

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