King City shambles reveals problems with scheduling
The World Cricket League Championship has quite probably been one of the best ODI (or 50 over international, as the UAE and Namibia matches stupidly have no ODI status) tournaments in the history of the format. With six matches remaining, four teams still have a chance of joining Ireland in the World Cup directly from the competition without having to go through the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand early next year. The excitement, competitiveness and the meaningful nature of the matches have made it a refreshing change from the drudgery that is the full member ODI circuit.
But the farcical abandonment of the first match between Canada and the Netherlands revealed one of the problems with the tournament, and it's a problem that is apparent throughout cricket, at all levels - how the sport deals with rain.
Of course cricket, being an outdoor sport so dependent on the playing surface not turning into mud, is always going to have problems with rain, but how it currently deals with it is far from adequate.
Remember, the World Cricket League Championship started way back in June 2011. Over two years ago. And in a tournament lasting over two years, the ICC have seen fit to schedule just one reserve day per match, meaning that, so far, three matches have had to be completely abandoned.
Two off those abandonments were over a year ago now, with Ireland v Afghanistan and Scotland v Canada falling victim to the terrible summer weather the UK and Ireland experienced in 2012. I asked the ICC at the time if there were any plans to reschedule those games, and they confirmed that there wasn't. But why?
Earlier this summer, the ICC Champions Trophy final at Edgbaston very nearly saw a farcical finish. Already reduced to a 20 over contest, further rain threatened an abandonment, as the game had to be finished by a certain time and no reserve day was scheduled. Fortunately someone noticed the great big floodlights at the ground and thought it might be a good idea to turn them on so they could finish the game and get a result. An all too rare common sense decision from the cricketing authorities.
Other sports reliant on good weather find common sense ways to deal with it. In the days before they installed a roof on Centre Court, the Wimbledon Tennis Championships would sometimes extend the tournament by a day. In Major League Baseball, teams will sometimes schedule a make-up day for a washed out or curtailed game later in the season. It is sometimes possible to see a game that started in May be concluded in August. When they know they might not get a chance to play later in the season, they'll try and get a game in no matter what. This season saw one game continue past 3am in an effort to get a result.
And these examples take place in a more confined time period than the almost 2.5 years of the World Cricket League Championship. The MLB regular season lasts six months, and Wimbledon just a fortnight.
One thing these examples, and I could give more, don't do though is actually schedule the "reserve days". They're done on an ad-hoc basis as an attempt to make sure things are decided out on the field and not by the weather. Cricket seems to be alone in scheduling reserve days. If there was more flexibility, Canada and the Netherlands could have continued the abandoned first match after the conclusion of the second match. There was the time and the weather to do so.
So how to rectify this? I'm calling on the ICC to show that the extension of time in the Champions Trophy final wasn't a one-off display of common sense and to reschedule the three abandoned games.
November provides an ideal time to do it, when all five teams involved will be in the UAE for the World Twenty20 Qualifier. Play the three games either before or after the tournament. These aren't meaningless ODIs from a seven match series between India and Sri Lanka, they're qualifying matches for the ODI format's most important event. They should be played. And maybe it could the start of a more common sense approach to dealing with limited overs matches affected by the rain.
Of course, I'm probably expecting too much here. Expecting this degree of common sense from the ICC? What am I thinking?