Sunlight and other unusual weather stoppages in cricket

Sunlight, ice, heat, fog, pollution...cricket interruptions are not just restricted to rain or bad light.

Virat Kohli (left) and Shikhar Dhawan walk off the field due to sunlight, at McLean Park, Napier, on Wednesday.   -  AFP

There was some commotion at McLean Park shortly after the dinner break. The bemused spectators saw Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli confer with the umpires, Shaun Haig and Shaun George, before they decided to come off the ground. Play had to be held up for half an hour.

It was later revealed that the batsmen had problems looking into the setting sun. In other words, cricket was held up for good light.

McLean Park has been guilty of the same at least twice in recent past, the most recent coming during a Super Smash match between Central Districts and Canterbury just four days ago. A Twenty20 International (T20I) between New Zealand and Bangladesh — exactly two years ago — was also held up.

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Sunlight stopping play sounds almost counter-intuitive, but then, given that it has happened thrice at the same ground at roughly the same time of the day and the same day of the year, this can probably be resolved by some rescheduling.

However, rescheduling would not have been solved the problem at a Test at Old Trafford during the 1995 Wisden Trophy.

The greenhouse effect

Given its reputation for gloomy weather, poor light — often accompanied by drizzle — is always on the cards at Manchester. Nothing of the sort happened that day.

Dickie Bird had to halt play due to light reflected off a greenhouse, during a Test at Old Trafford in 1995. Photo: PTI

 

That does not mean that the day was without drama. Dickie Bird accidentally dropped the marbles he used to keep in his pockets to keep a count of balls. Now he dropped them and went down on his knees, crying, “I’ve lost me marbles! I’ve lost me marbles!” causing much hilarity among the cricketers.

While this was an amusing interruption, it certainly came second in terms of shock to what Bird did about 20 minutes before tea, when light reflected off a greenhouse on the adjacent practice ground.

While greenhouses do serve a purpose in the realm of botany, they are usually not planned with cricket in an adjacent ground in mind. This was not an errant spectator or sightscreen that poor Bird could have got out of the way with a wave of his hand.

But given that the light was too strong, there was only one thing to be done. The players had to come off the ground, tea was taken early, and that was that.

Dense fog stops play

Weather interruptions can be cruel, especially in limited-overs cricket. The South Africans will know. Try reminding them of that 22-runs-in-one-ball night; or perhaps involve them in a discussion over that sheet of paper noting a miscalculated target during the 2003 World Cup.

Rain interruptions have been cruel on South Africans. At the 1992 World Cup, it derailed their chances of making the final. Photo: The Hindu Archives

 

Zimbabweans, on the other hand, are less likely to complain. They had stunned Pakistan in 1998-99, when they won their first overseas Test, at Peshawar. Dense fog restricted the second Test to under 200 overs and prevented any play in the third, helping Zimbabwe clinch the series.

While rain and bad light are the usual reasons for interruptions, other factors have come into play from time to time. The prime example of this was a match in 1981, when Cambridge hosted Essex at Fenner’s. Play was called off when the mercury dropped to abysmal levels — though, to be fair, there was some drizzle involved.

Twenty-eight summers before that, massive lumps of ice fell from the sky at Sheffield to force a day’s play between Yorkshire and Gloucestershire to be abandoned at Sheffield. Heavy snowfall held up a Monday’s cricket in 1975 at Buxton, when Derbyshire hosted Lancashire for a County Championship match. Surprisingly, the Saturday before that had witnessed high temperatures.

At the opposite end of this spectrum was the Friends Provident Trophy semifinal of 2007, when play was held up in an English evening at Derby due to heat.

Weathering the wind

Strong wind, on the other hand, has held up cricket on several occasions. The match had resumed without bails during some of these, obviously once both captains and umpires agreed.

Cricket was held up for 20 minutes during a Test in New Delhi, in 2017-18, after the Sri Lankans complained of pollution. Photo: R. V. Moorthy

 

In some matches, the bails were fixed to the stumps with chewing gum. In Next Man In, Gerald Brodribb mentions the use of clay as an alternate “adhesive.” Heavy iron bails have also been used.

A variant of strong wind is the desert storm, a phenomenon cricket fans consider synonymous to Sachin Tendulkar’s blitz at Sharjah against Australia in 1998. On the other hand, a hailstorm held up the Brisbane Test of the 1992-93 Ashes for some time.

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When Lord Tennyson’s team toured India in 1936-37, play was held up in Nagpur for about two minutes due to an earthquake. In 2016, Tony Campbell wrote in The Telegraph how an earthquake occurred during a match in Santiago.

On the other hand, the authorities scheduled a rest day after the first during the 1979-80 Jubilee Test at Wankhede Stadium to coincide with a solar eclipse. And while most of these stoppages were remarkable, some were outright harmful. As airborne pollution soared to about 15 times the level recommended by WHO, cricket was held up for twenty minutes during a Test in New Delhi in 2017-18 after several Sri Lankan fielders complained of breathing problems.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a freelance writer)