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The ICC Cricket World Cup—Drenched in a Storm

All eyes were on England this summer as the World Cup came home to English soil after a gap of twenty years. Major cricketing nations from around the world were ready to battle it out for the title of World Champions at the Mecca of Cricket. This year, however, the International Cricket Council (ICC) have attracted criticism for their poor planning and execution of the World Cup. Michael Holding, the West Indian fast bowler who eventually became a commentator, recently joined the bandwagon as he blasted the ICC after being chastised for speaking out against umpiring mistakes while on air during a match. The move was the first of many querulous disagreements that everyone from senior players to officials have had with the ICC regarding several decisions they took concerning the Cricket World Cup which kicked off on 30th May in England.

A report by The Times of India stated that the ICC had asked Holding not to point out the errors made by the umpires presiding over the West Indies’ match against Australia. Holding scathingly called out a mistake that resulted in West Indies’ star batsman and the Universe Boss, Chris Gayle getting dismissed on what should have been a free-hit delivery. Holding then resorted to an email to express his displeasure and went on to further question the ICC’s standards by pointing out that had FIFA organised the event, such a mistake would have led to the umpire being sacked. However, later on, both Holding and the ICC made it clear to the newspaper that the matter had been resolved. It is interesting to note that this was one of the only issues that found a solution, among the countless problems that have plagued this edition of the World Cup since its commencement.

Umpiring errors have been a major cause of worry in this year’s World Cup with standards having taken a dip in several matches. The most notable example was the West Indies–Australia match which led to several cricketers calling out the errors and comparing the incident to similar lapses that took place during the recent Indian Premier League. At Trent Bridge, poor umpiring took the centre stage as four decisions were overturned through the use of DRS with the main talking point being Chris Gayle’s dismissal that occurred on a no-ball which escaped the notice of the umpires. West Indian Carlos Brathwaite also remarked after the match that several balls which were close to head height were called wides. Following West Indies’ narrow defeat by a margin of just 15 runs, several fans took to social media to express their displeasure, with most of them attributing Australia’s victory to the mistakes by the officials.

In the first World Cup taking place in the UK since 1999, rain and bad weather have held the centre stage with four matches getting drowned out. The India vs New Zealand match which was termed as a ‘Match between Titans’ recently became the fourth encounter to be thoroughly washed out, and fans were understandably enraged. Twitter and Reddit have been set ablaze by innumerable trolls and memes that showcase the fans’ displeasure at the way things have fared in England and Wales. While both teams retained their unbeaten record as they shared a point each, fans were left unhappy with the ICC’s decision to host the World Cup in England despite knowing of the unpredictable British weather.

Sri Lanka suffered the most because of the so-called British summer, losing two complete games to the bad weather. While it remains to be seen whether that will make a difference in their eventual progress, given their recent form, it is safe to say that it is quite unfair to the team. While the pinnacle India vs Pakistan match had 40% chance of rain, the Indian team got away luckily and were able to play the full course of the game, despite losing a little time due to a rain delay. Nonetheless, imagine the furore that would have occurred if such an important match had to be abandoned due to bad weather. Bristol has been the worst hit stadium with Gloucestershire following close behind. The ICC has promised ticket refunds, and this could cost them anywhere between ten to twenty thousand pounds.

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa, Pakistan, India, and New Zealand have all lost out on those two vital points due to a rain delay. This World Cup, which is still in its preliminary stages, has had more washed out matches than any that has preceded it. While Britain might seem like a good option due to the diverse population it houses, the ICC should have been more wary about its most prominent disadvantage—the weather, which is unruly and unpredictable. While the weather is cricket’s most significant uncontrollable factor, knowing fully well about the British summer, shifting the tournament to UAE or Dubai should have been an option worth considering for the ICC.

Several cricket pundits had called for the World Cup to be hosted by a new member this time around to circumnavigate the British Summer issue. But looking at how difficult it has been to get the World Cup to the Asian subcontinent, this seems like something that will not be happening in the near future. The 1987 World Cup restructured how the world viewed cricket and also changed how countries wielded power within the ICC. The 1987 World Cup was moved out of England allowing other members of the ICC to quote tenders for hosting the prestigious tournament on their home soil. The plans to move it out were set in motion shortly after India won the 1983 World Cup, with Indian politician and cricket administrator NKP Salve and Jagmohan Dalmiya fighting to bring the WC to the Asian subcontinent. This resulted in a coalition involving India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Encouraged by these shifts in dynamics, the Asian teams offered the 21 voting Associates £20,000 each as the World Cup share if they supported them as opposed to the usual £3000-4000. This move went on to forever change how the game within the game was played, and finally, the World Cup came to Asia.

This was not the only controversy that riled the Council, with several countries showing their displeasure with the ICC’s lack of efforts to resolve the bail controversy that is threatening to ruin the tournament. Both Virat Kohli and Aaron Finch condemned the “unfair” problem that resulted in the bails not dislodging at the right moment leading to not-outs. David Warner was one of the fortunate few who stayed on the crease because Jasprit Bumrah’s delivery failed to remove the bails despite it hitting the stumps. This is not the first time the Zing bails have caused trouble with several complaints having been raised during this year’s IPL due to the same issue. Even the pacy Jofra Archer couldn’t remove the bails cleanly while bowling to Prithvi Shaw who hence made a lucky escape. Prithvi Shaw, Chris Lynn, and KL Rahul were all given second chances due to these slightly heavier bails during the IPL-2019. This World Cup has already witnessed several occasions where these bails failed to come off, making it a relevant issue.

While the likes of Kohli, Finch, Michael Vaughan, and Nasser Hussain have asked the ICC to look into the matter and switch back to the traditional wooden bails, the ICC has backed its decision to use these bails. “We wouldn’t change anything mid-event as it would compromise the integrity of the event—the equipment is the same for all ten teams across all 48 games. The stumps have not changed in the last four years. They have been used in all ICC events since the 2015 Men’s Cricket World Cup. This means they’ve been used in more than 1000 games—this is a statistical anomaly. This issue has always been part of the game.” the ICC told Sky Sports. Though it does not make sense to change equipment mid-World Cup, it is to be noted that this issue was brought up several times in the past, and the ICC should have looked into the matter before deciding to go ahead with these bails.

The ICC was also blamed for not providing the right facilities to players, with the Indian players complaining that they were asked to go to private gyms for their workouts as the ones in the hotels were not good enough. Considering the massive popularity that Indian players command, security has been a significant concern for the team management, with the ICC asking security personnel to be invisible. This is a difficult thing to accomplish when one considers the large numbers of people that flock to these hotels for a chance to interact with their idols. Additionally, travelling has grown to become a significant cause of concern because cricketers are being asked to take buses rather than trains, which seems like a better option as they help to save time. “The ICC seems intent on making it a World Cup to remember and not only for the rain but also for its logistical planning, and facilities. They have been unable to provide telecast of games and even access to an equipped gym in the team hotels. This is when the ICC budget for the tournament in England is much greater than its budget for a tournament in India,” said a senior BCCI official while talking to Cricketfanatic.

Fans have also been suffering due to these bad logistical decisions as many of them faced difficulty getting to Trent Bridge on time for several matches. Due to long queues outside the venue, several fans had to wait for hours to collect their tickets as ticket scanners at the gates could not read bar codes. The Oval also faced a similar issue, and this led to the ICC releasing a statement wherein they offered a full refund to ‘anyone who was impacted by the delays because of the high volume of ticket collections.’

The 2019 Cricket World Cup was supposed to breathe fresh air into the sport in the UK as it was returning to England and Wales after a long twenty-year gap. But this is difficult to do when the weather decides the pace of the narrative. Hopefully, the ICC’s decision to have a round robin format will help minimise the damage done by the rain to the chances of various teams. As the tournament stretches out to a long six weeks, cricket fans all around the world are hoping that the skies stay clear and that in the end, the World Cup will conclude with the weather being just a minor footnote of no important deterring consequence.

Featured Image credits: Daily Maverick