England Women made it to the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup. That was expected. What most pundits did not predict, however, was that they would finish second in the group. Even that should not have bothered them too much, for in a way it was an encore of the previous edition, when they, just like this time, had finished second and met India in the semi-final. They had won that day, so why fear?
Unfortunately, they had not accounted for the weather. According to the playing conditions, in case of abandoned matches in the knockout stage, the topper of a group (India in this case) would go through to the final. In other words, there was little England could have done since their defeat against South Africa in the tournament opener.
Had England won that match, they would have topped the group, avoided an elimination due to rain, and faced Australia in the second semi-final. If that was washed out, England would have gone through. As things turned out, since their first match, England’s survival in the tournament depended entirely on South Africa’s performances and weather.
While Indian fans have reasons to celebrate the outcome – after all, this is going to be their first final in the history of the tournament – this is not the way they would have wanted to qualify.
Of course, one cannot blame ICC for their faith in the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) ground staff and drainage system – they had ensured play during the Big Bash League (BBL) final against all odds – but even they cannot do anything if the rain does not stop at all.
That ICC did not arrange for reserve days in case of washouts was known well in advance. However, as is often the case, the problem with the rules came into forefront only when it was actually implemented, not before the tournament.
However, there are multiple ways to work around this even during the tournament. Let us have a look.
The most obvious solution. True, reserve days were not announced beforehand, but surely that could have been done when a full match and a half were washed out in the same city two days ago?
Surely the lawmakers could have stepped in to intervene? A last-moment change like this would obviously have meant extra cost and logistics, but it surely would have been worth it?
Of course, there would have been too little time, especially for the side playing the second semi-final, ahead of the final, which would be played in another city. There is some truth in that: touring sides have often mentioned how difficult it is to get acquainted with the vastness of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
Increase the gap
One way would be to arrange for a three-day gap between the semi-finals and final, leaving enough window for reserve days. In other words, the league phase could have been scheduled to ensure the semi-finals were played on 4 March (with 5 March as reserve day) and the final on 8 March.
This could have been achieved had the tournament started a couple of days earlier, or with three league matches a day (not necessarily at the same venue) for some days.
Relax cut-off times
The ICC rules mention a cut-off point for the start of every match, but surely some rules can be relaxed for knockout matches in mega tournaments? Under ideal circumstances, every ground can accommodate 14 to 15 hours of playtime.
There have been instances of three T20 matches being played on the same venue on the same day, so why call off a match after three hours?
The day can be looked as eighty overs (even forty would do) of cricket to be played over 15 hours, which sounds more flexible than forty (or twenty) over three.
The semi-finals could also have been played one match a day, scheduled to start early in the day. This would have left them an entire day per match. Going a step further, suppose the entire day of Semi-Final 1 was lost to rain; now, if Semi-Final 2 got over on time the next day, why not play Semi-Final 1 after that?
Alternately, like the previous point, all that needs to be done is to look at the available span as 30 hours, in which forty overs need to be fitted.
Save as much time as possible
Since time is of utmost importance, do the captains have to go through the entire exercise of walking out to the middle for the toss and then return? Why can't the toss not be done in the Dugouts?
And if that can be done, why not have the presentations for the first match outside the playing arena as well to bring forward the starting time of the second match as much as possible?
Remember, five minutes may be the difference between a result and a match called off an over before the minimum number of overs required.
Plan early, move matches
This is again a switch that involves a lot of effort – but given that the predictions for Sydney were known well in advance, why not shift the venue for the semi-finals to, say, the MCG? That would have allowed the semi-finals to be pushed to as late as 7 March, the day before the final!
Use the Docklands
If there is a venue with retractable roofs, why not make the best use of it? The three knockout matches could have been played there to avoid this situation. Of course, one can understand the significance of the SCG and the MCG as venues for the last three matches, but surely getting the matches started was more important than hosting them at iconic venues?
Of course, indoor cricket is not a solution most countries can offer, but given that it is there, why not use it to your advantage?
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