Inclement weather, which has dogged England for the past week or so, could make this World Cup into a washout in more ways than one if Sunday’s marquee match between India and Pakistan is also ruined.
Thursday’s match between India and New Zealand at Nottingham was abandoned without a ball being bowled, making it the fourth such in this tournament. One match had the overs truncated because of rain.
That’s far too many setbacks within the first fortnight itself. While the met department suggests a vast improvement in the weather, the damage caused can’t be revoked; and there’s no guarantee that the met forecast will hold going ahead!
It hardly needs saying that if the India-Pakistan game is also washed out, it will be a monumental disaster: in terms of fan disappointment obviously, as well as financially for the ICC, broadcasters, sundry vendors — just about everybody in the ecosystem.
A truncated match would not be full bang for the buck, as it, were, but still some compensation for all the constituents in this eco-system. But it will drastically alter the tactics for both teams involved.
I’ll come to what could be going on in the Indian and Pakistan think tanks after addressing how the World Cup should or could be structured in future to factor in the adverse influence of the weather.
The ICC has copped a great deal of the blame, especially on social media and particularly from irate Indian fans who hold the apex body for poor planning, some even arguing that England should never be the venue for a World Cup
One can only sympathise with the apex body. The ICC is not god, and can’t dictate weather patterns in a country of fickle weather like England where even met departments are often proved wrong.
It is puerile — indeed supercilious nonsense — to argue that England shouldn’t be venue for such tournaments. Apart from being the oldest and still powerful cricketing nation, it can’t be overlooked that four World Cups were held here without hassle.
What obviously needs to be done, however, is to find measures by which such disruptions are minimized if not done away with.
For instance, I recall that in the 1983 World Cup played in England, India’s opening match against the West Indies spilled over into the second day because of rain. But it was completed, and by the way, giving India an important win.
The ICC has made the plea of logistical issues arising out of reserve/spillover days. But clearly, a fresh cost-benefit analysis needs to be done for the tournament if it has to be played in countries with uncertain weather.
And better covering for the ground, as Sourav Ganguly pointed out during the Nottingham fiasco, would certainly help.
Abandoned and frequent rain-shortened matches take way from fan and viewer delight, badly affecting the box office appeal of the World Cup. In the long run, that would prove seriously counterproductive.
Coming back to Sunday’s match, given the weather, the teams — especially India — may be compelled to revise their playing XIs. In a reduced overs match, Shastri and Kohli may be tempted to play an extra seamer instead of spinner, more so since Pakistan play slow bowlers well.
Rahul obviously moves up the order for the injured Dhawan, but the no. 4 slot is not a straightforward pick. Again, in a reduced overs scenario, it is likely that experienced Karthik may be preferred over rookie Vijay Shankar.
The no. 4 slot could go to him, Dhoni or Hardik depending on the state of the game at that point in time. The onus will be on the top three though to blunt the potent pace attack of Aamir and Wahab Riaz
But all told, given the hype that surrounds this match, the single biggest determinant of the outcome will not be so much which side is more talented, but which can absorb pressure better on the day.
India’s record against Pakistan in World Cups bespeaks 100 per cent success. In the current tournament too, India have looked consistently good, Pakistan’s form has swung violently from the brilliant to the utterly mediocre. Which Pakistan will turn up on Sunday is India’s biggest concern!