“Both football and tennis have their own ways to tackle the rain, and if cricket wants to become a global sport, the forces of nature should be tackled effectively, else it could only push spectators away”
The first point for a tourist planning on visiting an international location is to research when the best months are for touching down on the said country. He keeps in mind the climate – and ideally, his holiday should be sans much rain, which could literally pour water over his plans. Hence, the detailed schedule is made primarily focusing on the vagaries of weather, especially if the country he intends to set foot upon is a tropical country.
For any individual with a basic knowledge of geography, the fact that the Asian subcontinent receives heavy to very heavy rainfall between July to October will be no secret. The presence of the mountains and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean attribute to the downpour, and even lead to cyclonic waves, which should rule out visiting countries like Sri Lanka, India (coastal cities) and Bangladesh during the time of the year.
Hence, it is mightily surprising that when Cricket Boards get together to finalize a schedule, the climatic conditions are hardly discussed. There have many numerous incidents in the past when a side has touched down upon a country with the aim of perfecting their skills, only to be left disappointed by the heavy amount of rain that has skittled aside their match plans. Three years ago, in 2015, the Bangladesh Cricket Board earned the wrath of the South African players after both matches in the two Test-series were wiped out due to incessant rain. Four out of the five days of the second match at Dhaka were washed out and the last two days of the first Test at Chittagong were lost due to bad weather.
Before, in the same year, a one-off Test against India had also been abandoned due to rain in Bangladesh, after nine of the 15 sessions were rained out. Hashim Amla, then-South African skipper had called it the most “bizarre series” that he has ever taken part in. “This is one of the most bizarre Test series I have been involved in,” the usually unflappable Amla said. “I don’t think I have played a series where out of 10 days, six days have been rained off.”
In 2016, India’s Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean Isle was disrupted due to the weather as well, but the match that brought all attention to ICC’s nonchalance to curb rain-affected encounters was the Champions Trophy Final in 2013 between India and England, where the match was eventually reduced to 20-overs a side.
With the ongoing series between Sri Lanka and England also being affected with rain, the two Boards are in the firing line of deranged fans, who are unable to fathom why a series is being held during the northeast monsoons, where at least 371mm of rain is expected over 16 days in the country. The first ODI of the series was washed out, while the second was curtailed. The third ODI began after a six-hour wait, which was enough to drive the supporters furious.
Spending money on tickets for matches that offer half the thrill of a cricket match or are interspersed by frustrating bouts of stoppages will irk any individual. If a game is held after hours of no-show, the spectators will not be refunded, which is exactly what happened in the last ODI that was a 21-over a side affair. Hence, the audiences have to either patiently wait, hoping for the match to resume (this can, as we saw, take hours) not knowing whether the game will be held or called off. If they walk out and if a match is held, they will not be refunded and would not have watched the game live either. It is then a lose-lose situation for them.
It is understandable that a certain number of series needs to be held in a particular year, and with a tight schedule, there is hardly any room to accommodate matches in the prime match-staging periods. However, the ICC then has to be swift in taking action and either invest heavily in retractable roofs, which could not be feasible for most Boards, or only agree to a series that can potentially be hampered by rain if it is being held at a neutral venue.
Hosting a game at a neutral venue will reduce spectators and affect the revenue of the home Board, but they risk losing them in matches at home that are rain-impacted as well. Empty stadiums in gloomy days do not make for a pleasant viewing, and with less number of fans willing to risk attending such games, the broadcasters will not be pleased either.
It also is not fair for the players, who have a hectic schedule, to travel, train and attune themselves mentally to match-mode, only to see a game being pushed a few hours back. With the ICC World Cup next year expected to have rain-curtailed matches as well, it is imperative for the ICC to take a wider look at the consequences of such games – upon the fans, the players and the overall development of cricket. Both football and tennis have their own ways to tackle the rain, and if cricket wants to become a global sport, the forces of nature should be tackled effectively, else it could only push spectators away.