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Friday, June 14, 2019

rain abandons play exposing poor planning ECB


"Rain Rain Go Away" is a popular English language nursery rhyme.  There is a short story in the same name too,  by American writer Isaac Asimov. A fantasy rather than a science fiction story, it was based on an idea by Bob Mills, editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but rejected by him. It was instead published in the September 1959 issue of Fantastic Universe and reprinted in the 1975 collection Buy Jupiter and Other Stories.

The story concerns a seemingly perfect family, the Sakkaros, who become neighbours of another family, the Wrights. The Wrights are puzzled at the great lengths the Sakkaros go to avoid any contact with water !  .. .. in climax,  the downpour happens and the Sakkaros are hit by the rain, causing the faces to blur and their bodies to dissolve, leaving only their clothes and sticky heaps. Mrs. Wright is unable to stop her sentence "...made of sugar and afraid they would melt".  [any connection of Tamil sakkarai with Sakkaros !]

Cricket World Cup 2019 was to have a match between India and New Zealand and some wrote that with both the teams unbeaten, there must be a loser ! – not to be .. the  tournament had its third abandoned match as India-New Zealand fixture was called off without even a toss.  One point each, New Zealand stay on top, India edge ahead of England to third spot. Australia stay second. This now means Afghanistan, England and Australia are the only three sides to escape rain results this World Cup.   It was a record-breaking week at the World Cup..  .. .. for the rain. With as many as four abandonments, it seems like the rain has gathered more points than any other team in the competition.  The World Cup washouts have been frustrating for fans across the planet, and for the teams who feel they have missed out on outright victories. But they have been especially tough on those who have traveled to watch the game.

TOI has an article blaming the Organisers for not even having rain cover - “What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in England? Get yourself some rain cover. That’s common sense. Why can’t the same be for the grounds? Trent Bridge has a great hovercraft. The squares are covered. The drainage is great. Why don’t they have full ground covers?” a major stakeholder in this ICC World Cup, angry that the match between India and New Zealand couldn’t begin, told TOI. A senior cricket executive pointed out, “How much does a ground cover cost? Ask the BCCI because they bought a few of those ahead of the World T20 in March 2016. It wasn’t the monsoon season in India at the time but they still spent that money – around one crore per cover, I think. The India versus Pakistan match at Eden Gardens could take place only because there were full ground covers.”

The England Cricket Board (ECB) has clearly not been short of funds. Former BCCI president and now a member of parliament, Anurag Thakur, said that the budget allotted to ECB for hosting this 2019 World Cup has been three times higher than what India received for hosting the 2016 World T20. “I had taken this up with the ICC in the 2015 ICC board meeting in Barbados,” Thakur recalled. Sources said ECB had asked for an increased budget because they wanted to buy office space in London to work on the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and the 2019 ICC World Cup. “Renting in central London would’ve been a costlier proposition. ICC approved the budget even as BCCI argued against it. At three times the budget, they couldn’t invest in rain covers?” said the source.

Squabbling over rain forcing no-shows doesn’t end here. There are those who blame the scheduling of the World Cup, which they say has to do a lot more with the 2019 Ashes series that begin in the first week of August. “June and July are the tricky months in England. That is why, every marquee home series in England begins after mid-July. Look at India’s tour of England last year. The one-dayers began on July 12 and the Tests were scheduled straight in August. That’s because it helps the ECB broadcaster. Even the World T20 in Australia next year is a risk.

It’s scheduled in October. Australia’s best four cricketing months are November onwards. But that’s reserved for their home series,” added the sources. Scheduling aside, England is in a mess right now because of traveling spectators who had invested in this trip months in advance.

Here is some rain rule .. at group stages, when match is abandoned, teams get split points.  If a Semi-Final is tied, the teams shall compete in a Super Over to determine which team progresses to the Final. If following a tie, weather conditions prevent the Super Over from being completed, or if the match is abandoned or a no result at the end of the reserve day, then the team which proceeds to the Final will be the team that finished in the higher position in the League Stage. In the event of a tied final, the teams shall compete in a Super Over to determine which team is the winner.  If following a tie, weather conditions prevent the Super Over from being completed, or if the match is abandoned or a no result at the end of the reserve day, the teams shall be declared joint winners.

Cricinfo has this interesting one – on what Srilankan Board does .. ..  driven, of course, by the desire to deliver a bankable broadcast product (the only whip that reliably animates administrators), SLC has taken stock of its challenges. Teams are generally unwilling to tour the island in its driest months, largely due to clashes with the Southern Hemisphere summer. As such Sri Lanka are forced to schedule tours from June through September, when there are frequent downpours. Worse, with sides such as England, who have their own home season through the middle of the year, SLC must occasionally host them in October and November, which is the domain of the northeastern monsoon. And yet, SLC has counteracted these scheduling misfortunes with a singularly effective strategy: they cover the whole ground.

No full tour of Sri Lanka goes by without a rain interruption, and to watch Sri Lanka's groundstaff - the fastest in the world - in action, is practically its own form of entertainment. The pitch is first covered by a rubberised tarpaulin, before two more are heaped on top of that, a team of over 100 working in unison to ensure less than a minute's worth of rain falls on the square. Once the centre is protected, the staff break into separate crews, a supervisor calling out instructions, and the remainder of the playing area is enveloped before 10 further minutes, at most. So well-drilled are these enormous teams, and so efficient, that at times you suspect, they surpass North Korean military shows for precision and spectacle. The clear advantage that covering the entire playing area yields over, say, merely having good drainage, is the speed with which a ground can be readied the moment rain stops. Within an hour, play has often resumed. Can the same be said for serious rain interruptions virtually anywhere else? The square and the bowlers' run-ups might require little work, but the vast areas of the ground that remain uncovered in England require substantial going-over with super soppers, plus additional drying with a rope.

The obvious caveat to all this, of course, is that labour is relatively cheap on the island. More to the point, perhaps, masses of young Sri Lankans can more easily be convinced to spend several days pulling covers, if for no other reason than they are keen to watch the cricket while the sun does shine. Hiring a hundred casual staff for match days plus rehearsals may be impractical in nations such as England. But covering the entire ground need not be. A few new tractors, a pile of fresh covers, and perhaps just a handful of additional staff - all this is feasible. It is not as if either the ECB or the ICC can claim to be hard up for cash.

Or should Cricket be played in indoor stadiums or ones with roofing over – the retractable ones ! ..  the roof at Wembley is partially-retractable and can be moved - but doesn't cover the pitch. It sits 52 metres above the playing surface and can move forwards and backwards, enough to cover the seating behind each goal. The design team wanted maximum sunlight to enter the ground and the roof is never adjusted whilst spectators are in the stadium. The closed nature of the stadium means that it is not illuminated by traditional light towers. Instead, the lights are spread out in a rectangle along the framework that holds the roof. There are fewer lights at both ends in line with the wicket, so as to not be in the batters line of sight.

The Etihad stadium has a roof .. .. .. Mike Hussey became the first player to hit a ball into the roof, a full 120 feet above the ground, back in 2005. It was in an Australia versus World XI exhibition game, and the ball was called a dead ball, much to Hussey’s displeasure. The rule was modified in the 2012 BBL, to allow the batter six runs if the ball hit the framework of the roof outside the boundary.

England needs to plan the World Cup ~ fans do not pay for seeing rain, though rains are the most wanted one here in Chennai, Tamil Nadu and many parts of India.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th June 2019.


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