Will the Player of the Tournament this World Cup Be Duckworth-Lewis?

Humour

Will the Player of the Tournament this World Cup Be Duckworth-Lewis?

Illustration: Ahmed Sikander

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arlier this month, when the World Cup began, Indian fans had to wait almost a week before they could see the Boys in Blue take the field. But even that wait was not as agonising as the one that preceded today’s clash between India and New Zealand. The match, which was scheduled to begin at 3 pm IST, has been interminably delayed by rain. With the weather gods in no mood the spare the gentlemen this year, the most important question is are the rains playing spoilsport or are they the tournament’s MVP?

Imagine a player so fearsome that the other teams don’t even bother taking the field when he is present. It’s not Chris Gayle, but the relentless rain that has kept squads huddled in their dressing rooms, causing four games to be abandoned this year, without a single ball being bowled in two of them. This has not gone down well with fans who have been conditioned to treat the World Cup as the grandest show in cricket. Social media, especially the corners of it that are presently all about the World Cup, is rife with complaints about how the rain is ruining a spectacle that only comes once in four years. Even the man who knows as many words as Sachin Tendulkar has runs, Shashi Tharoor, voiced his displeasure with England’s weather, suggesting that the ICC refrain from scheduling further tournaments in Ol’ Blighty. One wonders how the English were even able to invent the game of cricket, if conditions are so adverse in what is supposed to be summer.

The official anthem of this World Cup featured Andrew Flintoff strolling down a sunny street singing a jaunty tune, but it should have instead been shot in black and white, with him singing a down-tempo, morose version of “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”. That would have been a more accurate representation of how this year’s edition has been shaping up. The fancy sponsors of the teams’ kits, who must have put the latest sweat-wicking and temperature-regulation technology to use when designing the jerseys, should have just invested in some nifty waterproofing instead. That annoying swishing windcheater sound bowlers would have made on their run-up alone would have been enough to send the batsmen running back to the pavilion.

This rain-phobia is probably why cricket is not as popular as football in England. While rains before a football match mean the audience is usually in for a stunning spectacle with sliding tackles harder than the CA entrance exams, a little precipitation before a cricket game means you will soon witness visuals of dejected fans huddling under umbrellas in a rapidly emptying stadium. Perhaps as cricketers grow older, they become more soluble in water, because a little rain never seemed to stop the children who play gully cricket all across India.

Despite how badly the rains have affected the progression of games in this World Cup, the ICC has only allotted one reserve day in the event of the final being affected by weather.

Now there are bound to be those who would try to fansplain the intricacies of cricket, and point out that it’s not the players getting drenched that’s the problem, it’s the pitch. Anyone who has tried to bowl with a leather ball on a soaked patch of earth can testify to how it’s more frustrating than trying to lodge a complaint with your internet service provider. But why must cricket be so stuck in its archaic traditions? Leather, as a product, is one borne out of cruelty to animals, and as such should be replaced with a more humane alternative. Rubber balls bounce just as well in both wet and dry conditions, and are cheaper to replace when Dhoni knocks them out of the park with a helicopter shot. And with climate change growing more severe, these spoilsport showers are not going anywhere any time soon, which means the rubber ball revolution is nigh.

These might seem like radical solutions, but when you consider the ICC’s provisions for how to handle washouts, they start to make an absurd sort of sense. Despite how badly the rains have affected the progression of games in this World Cup, the ICC has only allotted one reserve day in the event of the final being affected by weather. And if play on that reserve day is also interrupted by rain, then the two finalists will have to share the trophy. Compared to that kind of cop-out, the thought of batsmen wearing gumboots under their pads and bowlers handing over their raincoats to the umpires before the start of an over doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

Unfortunately, it’s not likely that cricket’s governing body will adopt such measures, because of things like “respecting tradition”. So we must resign ourselves to praying to the weather gods like some sort of Neolithic tribe, and hoping that this World Cup will be remembered for the exploits of Kohli and Co rather than Duckworth and Lewis.

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