Despite the weather conditions, no reserve days have been allotted for group stage matches
In 2009, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka played the first Wimbledon match under Centre Court's retractable roof, built after a long debate about how the Grand Slam could be played without interruptions in Britain's notoriously unpredictable weather.
Rain cannot stop football or rugby matches and Formula 1 races unless the weather conditions are severe or the field of play becomes too treacherous.
But in cricket, even a slight drizzle can cause trouble as it is a sport where the pitch and the field must remain dry.
England may be the "home of cricket" but that does not mean the weather gods are kind. There is no fixed monsoon season in Britain -- it can rain at any point in time without warning and bright sunshine can turn to gloom in a flash. Under these circumstances, June and July are relatively better for cricket because it rains the least and the temperatures are slightly higher.
Even so, light showers are enough to wreck a tournament and that is exactly what is happening in the ongoing 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.
On June 11, the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka group match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. This was the third match in this edition that yielded ‘no result’ – most for any Cricket World Cup, ever. The new record of three washouts surpasses two washouts in 1992 and 2003 editions.
This was also the second consecutive match and the third match in five days to be washed out.
While the two points – meant for the winner – are shared equally by the two sides, a no result adversely impacts some teams that are in the bottom half of the table.
On June 10, the play was stopped after 7.3 overs of the first inning when South Africa were 29/2. The match did not resume and both sides bagged a point each. This point was not what South Africa was looking for.
The Faf du Plessis-led side had lost all of their first three matches and had to effectively win all of their remaining matches to make it to the semi-finals. Washouts and split points is the last thing they would be hoping for as they need two points in every match.
“Rain affected matches are the worst, really. Both teams that are involved want a result, but you can’t control the weather,” du Plessis said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
Days earlier on June 7, the Pakistan-Sri Lanka match was washed out without a ball being bowled. Both teams, which had won one and lost one match till then, picked up one point each.
In some cases, the rain is not enough to cease play. However, match lengths can get curtailed drastically. The controversial Duckworth–Lewis–Stern method does help in yielding a result even as the play is hampered.
The Sri Lanka-Afghanistan match on June 4 was impacted by rain. Afghanistan were given a revised target of 187 runs from 41 overs under the D/L method after Sri Lanka were bowled out for 201. Sri Lanka won the match by 34 runs.
There were multiple washouts and rain affected matches in previous world cups too. Incidentally, the number of rain affected matches was high in 1992 also, when England was the host.
Here’s a chart showing the number of rain affected matches in all World Cups so far:
Demands for a reserve day
Fans and teams have been asking why ‘reserve days’ were not allotted to group stage matches by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes said, “I know logistically, it would have been a big headache for the tournament organisers, and I know it would have been difficult, but we have got quite a lot of time in between games, and if we have got to travel a day later, then so be it. We put men on the moon so why can’t we have a reserve day, when actually this tournament is a long tournament?”
Sri Lanka Captain Dimuth Karunaratne endorsed Rhodes's comments, saying: "It is not easy, but I feel if they can have a reserve day, it will be good for everyone."
Similar issues were faced during the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy when five matches were affected by rain in some way.
Responding to the general criticism, the ICC issued a statement on why it did not schedule reserve days.
“This is extremely unseasonable weather. In the last couple of days we have experienced more than twice the average monthly rainfall for June which is usually the third driest month in the UK,” ICC said.
Cricket’s governing body said that adding reserve days for every match would “significantly increase the length of the tournament” and would make it “extremely complex to deliver”.
“It would impact pitch preparation, team recovery and travel days, accommodation and venue availability, tournament staffing, volunteer and match officials availability, broadcast logistics” and the spectators.
“There is also no guarantee that the reserve day would be free from rain either,” the ICC said.Reserve days have been allotted only for the knockout matches -- the two semi-finals and the final. If a match is interrupted, it will continue on the reserve day, and not start afresh. If the final’s reserve day is also washed out, the two finalists will share the title.Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro and gain access to curated markets data, exclusive trading recommendations, independent equity analysis, actionable investment ideas, nuanced takes on macro, corporate and policy actions, practical insights from market gurus and much more.