Australia look set to top the league table with a likely win over Sri Lanka at The Oval in London on Saturday. The forecast is for the sun to come out, so the Aussies can look forward to basking in it, while India and New Zealand had to share points on a rainy Thursday.
Meanwhile, Saturday's second game between the league's bottom-dwellers, South Africa and Afghanistan, looks iffy in drizzly Cardiff.
Fourth washout helps Australia
India and New Zealand, both unbeaten so far in the tournament, had to share points on Thursday when their game at Trent Bridge was abandoned - the fourth washout in this World Cup. This will allow Australia to overtake New Zealand’s seven points with a win over lowly Sri Lanka, despite losing to India in their third game. India can only reach seven points if they win against Pakistan in Sunday’s big game, which will be the 22nd in the round robin league of 45 matches. Australia would have played a game extra at midpoint, but it still shows how rain affects the league standings.
Reserve day won India the World Cup in 1983
Everyone remembers India’s historic upset of the mighty West Indies in the 1983 World Cup final at Lord’s in London. It’s worth pointing out that India had also beaten Clive Lloyd’s team at the same venue two weeks earlier at the start of the tournament. That was the West Indies’ first loss in a World Cup game, and it could only be completed on the reserve day after rain. This helped India qualify from the group stage, despite losing a couple of games.
ICC’s fig leaf
Logistics is the fig leaf that the ICC is using to cover its embarrassment over cricket’s biggest showpiece turning farcical with four rained out games already. The ICC chief executive’s claim that reserve days would have lengthened the tournament and disrupted travel, accommodation, and so on is hard to accept. It’s already a long tournament with a provision of at least three days between games when a team has to travel to another venue. All that a team would have needed to do was staying on at the venue an extra day and arriving at the next venue a day later, still leaving another day for rest.
Lessons from the sub-continent
If not a reserve day, the ICC and the ECB could have at least provided for better ground cover so that a game isn’t held up by a soggy outfield after the rain stops, as in Trent Bridge for the India-New Zealand tie. The Eden Gardens in Kolkata and the grounds in Sri Lanka have covers for the full ground and not just the center. Only two out of 76 ODIs have had no results in Sri Lanka in the past four years, despite torrential monsoon rains. Sure, it costs more to have extra covers and staff, but that’s affordable for a tournament with such a massive TV audience. It’s a small price to pay for the viewership of Sunday’s India-Pakistan game.
Interlude in the rain
Australia will be lucky if the forecast for an interlude in the rain across England on Saturday is accurate. The team came back stronger after the loss to India, with David Warner leading the way with the bat and Mitchell Starc with the ball. Their opponents Sri Lanka, sitting on four points with a win over Afghanistan and two points from washed out games against Pakistan and Bangladesh, may well invoke the English rain gods to get a fifth point.
Sumit Chakraberty is the author of 2019 Cricket World Cup Thinking Cap