Cricket Needs Sensible Solutions to Weather

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

To combat the weather, cricket has to be careful. What makes test match cricket the best competition on earth is it's delicate balance of bat and ball. In England, this is near perfect. Since the start of summer 2015, we've had just two drawn test matches, and enjoy regular close finishes, be it last week's thriller or 1981. The ball moves and seams early on, but if they get in, batters can make a score. However, the overheard conditions provide opportunities to fight back, and spin on day 5 often comes into play. A lot of this is down to the variations in our English summers.


While the weather in the past test was horrific, one bad week shouldn't outweigh the past few years. Yes, cricket should be more responsive to bad weather, but it's radicalism must be sensible, and changes should not affect the balance of the game.


To make these sensible changes, I would asses plans based on two factors. Is the proposed change realistic?, and does the game remain a fair, balanced contest?. If so, there is no reason why they should not be implemented. But we must be careful not to go overboard after one bad test and so few draws in recent times anyway.


Timings

The obvious change is starting play earlier. When cricket often finishes at 6:30pm (and sometimes later) not 6pm, starting at 10:30am, not 11am will make little difference to the fairness of the game. It is a common sense change, but doesn't need to be employed every test. Only if play has already been lost should an extra early half-hour be used, not in prediction of a bad forecast, as this will only lead to further complications if predictions are wrong. Furthermore, cutting lunch breaks down will help, especially if play has already been lost on the day.


This is fair, as 30 minutes extra in the morning is little different to thirty minutes extra at night, is easily achievable (especially without crowds), and therefore makes sense to implement. While it may not bring back all lost overs, 30 minutes extra can be key on four days equates to 2 hours, effectively saving a lost session.


A pink ball

One of the more radical suggestions being floated is the use of a pink ball when the light is bad to help improve visibility. This would help, as a fielder at deep backward square would feel much more confident picking a pink ball out of the night sky than the dark red currently used, as the bad light rule is often employed with fielders in more danger than batters.


However, regulating such a change would be challenging. Would the ball only come into play in the final session? How is the wear of the red ball replicated? If only one day has such bad light as to need the pink ball, the bowling side gets a big advantage as the pink ball moves more. You could correct this by saying from then on every fourth session uses a pink ball, but what if the bad light is on day 4, and therefore the other side is unlikely to bat again in the final session?


This shows the challenges of organising such a change, and how unfair it could become. The umpires suddenly become very influential in shifting the balance of the game, with one session of a hooping pink ball likely to have big ramifications to a test. This change, therefore, should not be implemented.


Following on

I haven't heard this idea discussed much, which surprises me as it seems like an obvious idea. Current laws state that only when day 1 is a complete washout does the follow on deficit reduces from 200 to 150. I would argue changing this so that any day that is a complete washout sees the target reduced from 200 to 150, as this adjusts the test to the new time parameters in which it is played.


One could argue against this on grounds of fairness, saying it is unfair for a batting side to have the follow-on target adjusted mid-innings. However, no captain is expecting their side to be in a position to follow on anyway, and this change would not necessarily hinder them anyway. Being forced to follow on but only trailing by 160, for instance, with only 2 or 3 sessions to bat to save the test would make for more exciting finishes. And furthermore, it is unfair on a well performing bowling side to have the time they expect to bowl a side out in adjusted, and the time needed for a batting side to save a test reduced by 90 overs anyway.


This change, to me, is fair, and would also be easy to implement, and so should be employed.


Radical science

So far, suggestions made above will help, but ideally, all five days should be available to play. This is difficult to ensure, but what isn't is reducing the time taken to clear up after a delay. This is where brains far greater than mine are needed.


Recent years have seen drainage improve, but wet outfields still cost time. Can rainwater be collected somehow before it hits the ground, perhaps in a floating cover. This would keep air getting to the outfield and stop water getting onto the grass, if said floating cover was lipped successfully to avoid spillages.


Is it possible to affix a cheap but effective roof to grounds? Can a new floodlighting system be implemented to stop bad light stoppages?


I don't know how realistic these changes are, but, as technology develops and society innovates, they may become possible. Because, ultimately, the only way to ensure law changes don't negatively affect the game's balance is stopping delays altogether, which is something a law change cannot achieve alone.

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