Not having a reserve day for the semis of T20 World Cup belies logic

S Sudarshanan
04 Mar 2020
Not having a reserve day for the semis of T20 World Cup belies logic

The final league match between West Indies and South Africa was abandoned due to rain in Sydney. © ICC

Thailand’s previous scores in the tournament were 78, 78 and 82, before making a whopping 150/3 in their final match in the T20 World Cup 2020. Against Pakistan, that was a daunting total because of two reasons – one, Pakistan’s highest successful run-chase in a T20I is 139; secondly, Pakistan have only managed to score 144 batting second in a T20I match. Thus, Thailand seemed to have done more than just well to get their first major win in the format. It would have been an upset.

But they were denied by the inclement weather at the Sydney Showground on Tuesday (March 3). That it was a dead-rubber meant that a washout didn’t affect either of the teams, apart from the record that was missed.

But what if it was a crunch game, a decider?

The following clash between West Indies and South Africa was to decide the semi-final line-ups: if the Proteas had won, they would have finished atop Group B and would have played the semis against Australia – as is the case now because of the washout game; and had West Indies won, England would have topped the group and played their last-four clash against Australia, with South Africa then facing India.

Throwback to the ICC (Men’s) Cricket World Cup 2019. First semi-final. India had finished on top, New Zealand on fourth in the league stage. There was rain forecast for the clash at the Old Trafford in Manchester but there was a reserve day in place.

After 46.1 overs with the Kiwis on 209/5, rain pelted down, suspending day for the day. Had there been no reserve day in place, India would have made it to the finals since they had finished on top after the league games. Instead, the teams came back on the reserve day and New Zealand upstaged India to make it to the title-clash.

Imagine had there been no provision for the match to continue the next day, because of suspension due to rain…

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For a tournament that has been held just over six months after the men’s World Cup, the semis of the Women’s T20 World Cup not having a reserve day belies logic. Suppose the spare day in the men’s marquee event had gone waste, then not having a reserve day for this event would at least have been understandable.

It is not easy to forecast the weather months in advance, agreed. But there can always be a spare day kept, just in case there is bad weather around, like it is now in Sydney on Thursday (March 5), the day of the semis. A last-minute hustle for getting in an extra day could have been a logistical nightmare, which is why a provision for it earlier would have helped. Moreover, there are a couple of days before the final anyway and thus, it wouldn't have been a case of cutting things too close.

In case both the games don’t happen, India and South Africa move to the finals, owing to the teams finishing on top in their respective groups. And just like that, Australia, the hosts, would be reduced to mere spectators to the biggest event on their shores – a record World Cup final.

For this tournament, a minimum of ten overs per side needs to be played – in place of the original five overs in T20Is – to constitute a game. In that case, the weather needs to relent for 40 overs to be bowled in the day, given both the semis are on the same day and at the same venue – the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

Kevin Roberts, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, revealed that a request for reserve days for the semi-final of the women’s T20 World Cup had been made to the ICC but it was declined, reported ESPNCricinfo.

“We've asked the question and it's not part of the playing conditions,” Roberts told SEN Radio.

“I respect that because we've said the same thing in tournaments that we run in Australia. It gives you cause to reflect on how you might improve things in the future absolutely, but going into a tournament with a given set of playing conditions and rules I don't think it's time to tinker with that as much as with an Australian hat on I might love that.”

It is the same for the men’s T20 World Cup scheduled later in the year in Australia. There is no reserve day for the semis but one in place for the final. Earlier in the year, the final of the Big Bash League was scheduled at the SCG and it seemed as if there was no way the title-clash would be staged owing to the inclement weather. But then eventually, the weather relented and a 12 overs-a-side contest was staged.

“It's frustrating…it would be nice if we could play in Melbourne. It is what it is, there's nothing we can do about it,” said Heather Knight, England’s captain ahead of the semis about the scenario. “The reserve day would be useful in this situation and it's a shame for the tournament in general because it's been great and if both semi-finals are lost it will be a sad time for the tournament. We'd be gutted if that did happen but guess it's our own fault for losing that game against South Africa. We didn't top our group and only have ourselves to blame.”

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For Meg Lanning and Harmanpreet Kaur, captains of Australia and India respectively, the teams are just beyond worrying about having a reserve day. That’s for a debate in terms of future tournaments. T20s are short and sharp, and that could be a thought behind not having a spare day is what Lanning felt.

The ICC T20 World Cups are short sharp events where reserve days are factored in for the final,” said an ICC spokesperson. “Allowing for any other reserve days would have extended the length of the event, which isn't feasible. There is a clear and fair alternative should there be no play in any of the semi-finals with the winner of the group progressing.”

The bottom-line is, perhaps, that it’s a case of spilt milk. We could hope that the weather allows as much game as is required to decide the finalists to take place.