The continuous pouring down of rain at Rose Bowl in Southampton on Day 1 of WTC Final has sparked a huge debate in world of cricket. The fans have been left absolutely frustrated as all the excitement around the final showdown between India and New Zealand turned into disappointment and agony because of the rain. While ICC have reserved a extra day (June 23) for ensuring the completion of the match, the fact is that there is forecast of rain throughout the week and hence it is quite unlikely that either team will get enough playing time to force a result even in six days.
Why ICC were wrong in hosting the WTC Final in England?
The English Summer, especially in the months of June and July has had a history of spoiling important cricket matches. Talking about India in particular, the Men in Blue have been affected by the same in past on quite a few occasions. The finals of the 2013 Champions Trophy between India and England in Birmingham was a rain-curtailed contest as the 50-over match was reduced to a 20-over affair. Although MS Dhoni's side emerged as winners that day on June 23, 2013, the fact that rain played a spoilsport in what could have been an amazing final showdown cannot be ignored.
A very similar scenario happened during India's 2019 World Cup semi-final contest against New Zealand when Virat Kohli's side were on top of the Kiwis on July 9, 2019, in Manchester. However, the rain changed the whole contest upside down as the match resumed on the next day (reserve day) under overcast conditions where New Zealand bowlers got an opportunity to get their side back into the contest and produced an emphatic performance to win against all odds. While one cannot take anything away from the brilliance of Kane Williamson's side that day, it is also important to look into the matter and analyze all the possible alternatives in such a situation.
When should the alternative of 'reserve venue' be considered?
It must be made very clear that shifting a match that has already been started at a particular venue won't be justified at any cost. Hence, what happened in the 2019 WC semis was probably a fair decision in the end. However, was it possible to shift the match altogether to a different venue before the match started since there was a rain forecast? Similarly, should ICC have considered a reserve venue for the WTC Final instead of a reserve day? Well, the answers are 'Definitely Yes'. Although the feasibility of the same is not easy, it is quite possible.
Rain is something one cannot predict but the weather forecast nowadays often give a very good idea about the possibility of the same. With ICC confirming on Friday that the reserve day on June 23 will come into play for WTC Final 2021, the match will still end in a draw most probably. While there could still be an unlikely result, there could have been a more likely chance of an outcome had there been a reserve venue instead.
Would 'reserve venue' have helped in the case of WTC Final?
Just around 165 km away from Rose Bowl stadium, Indian Women and England Women have played two and half days of uninterrupted cricket at Bristol Cricket Ground. Similarly, there are quite a few regions in England that have a better weather forecast than Southampton. While there will be logistical difficulties and unnecessary expenses for the same, they might actually balance out the huge losses that broadcasters eventually face with no cricket.
Although it must be admitted that it is quite a challenging task to have a reserve venue, ICC must still look into the possibility of the same to ensure that the hard work of teams across so many matches gets its fair due with a proper chance to become the undisputed winners at the end instead of being forced to share the trophy. While the cricket governing council need to select the first venue only after considering all these factors, the alternative of 'reserve venue' is something which can also be looked at in future for knock-out matches in cricket.