As the Indian Premier League (IPL) circus gets under way this afternoon and billions of man-hours teeter on the cliff of oblivion, it seems like the right time to do a little screaming. Dew is wrecking cricket.
Every sport in the world pursues equality in the surface of play. That is the reason why football has half time and also why players change sides across the courts so that no one has an edge. In tennis, they practically sweep the courts from one end to the other to make sure no advantage accrues.
Then you have cricket. The huge discrepancy in the playing conditions reduces the element of equality to a farce. Without batting for either India or England in the recently concluded ICC World T20 and congratulating the Windies on a heck of a tournament and a deserving win, it is necessary to bring up the issue of the toss being so vital courtesy the dew factor.
In the first semi-final, India’s bowling effort was described as “sending down a wet ball of soap”, so soft was the ball and so difficult to grip. The ability to score nearly 200 runs with ease as bowlers desperately searched for purchase made batting second a romp in Mumbai that evening. It did not matter who bowled, there was just no grasp. By the same token, dew also kicked in at Eden Gardens in the final. While Braithwaite slogged the first four balls of the final over from Ben Stokes for sixes, it has to be asked if dew on the ball and the dead pitch made it easier to slog boundaries.
Is the IPL also going to be held at ransom by the dew factor? Although the matches are starting a little later, dew will kick in and the toss will become vital. Is this a game or is it a casino in Vegas? We might as well just have a toss decide the winner of the game. No point of watching cleaning crew with ropes, scurrying about the ground and drying it up for six weeks.
For years now the dew factor and the split between day and night has been central to the assessment made by several commentators and experts. In fact because of it, the ‘toss’ which should really be a bit of a formality becomes a formidable hurdle. But it is now mostly accepted that up to 80% of a game played in a venue like Dharmsala is yours if you win the toss. The side bowling second is put to the sword.
This is a serious matter. Either the ICC has to grasp the nettle and play a day game for limited-overs cricket or a game that starts after dew begins to fall and play on through the night. In the early stages, dew was a kind of a spoilsport and keeping it in mind the toss was a slice of luck. It was cheerfully added to the cache of the glorious uncertainties in cricket. It is far more insidious and has now ‘graduated’ to a kidnapper holding cricket at ransom.
If this unfairness is tolerated any further the fans are going to start losing interest. Already, there is this ‘lost the toss, lost the game’ sentiment manifesting itself emphatically.
Dew doesn't affect just the ball. It flattens the pitch. It eliminates spin because the ball slips out of the hand. Fast bowlers lose out on swing, fielders discover easy catches slithering away and the captain has no clue how to set his field against an errant ball. The fielders keep drying the ball after every delivery which, ironically, ends up with captains being fined for wasting time.
Keep ignoring the uneven playing field created by dew and you might find the clicking of the turnstiles dying away. You cannot play a game dependent on the toss. Heads or tails, we all lose.