x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Champions Trophy final between India and England reduced to a damp squib

Instead of letting TV schedules dictate, thousands of fans who paid hundreds of pounds should have been priority.

A general view as rain stops play and the covers are on during the ICC Champions Trophy final at Edgbaston. Paul Gilham / Getty Images
A general view as rain stops play and the covers are on during the ICC Champions Trophy final at Edgbaston. Paul Gilham / Getty Images

This was no way to end a tournament of this magnitude. A stop-start 20-overs-a-side final to decide a 50-over champion.

In a sense, the anticlimactic conclusion summed up the general attitude towards the Champions Trophy.

Crammed into an 18-day window, no one thought to include a reserve day for the final.

It is all too convenient to blame the ICC, but the eight boards whose teams participated signed off on the playing conditions.

The semi-finals were played on Wednesday and Thursday.

A Saturday final, in the tradition of English domestic tournaments, was possible, with a reserve day on Sunday.

According to the tournament organisers, teams get a "travel day" and a "practice day" between matches.

That makes perfect sense in India or Australia where the distances between cities are so huge. But it takes just a couple of hours to get from Cardiff to Birmingham, unless you are travelling by horse and cart.

The lack of flexibility at the venue was also grating. Rules should be guidelines, not words to be followed blindly.

Once it became clear that play could begin only after 4pm local time (7pm UAE), the match could easily have been made a day-night one, with more overs available to both sides.

The floodlights had been on since morning, so it is not as though the playing conditions would have changed. Instead of letting television schedules dictate, the thousands of fans who had paid hundreds of pounds – in some cases – could have been made priority.

As recently as May 31, a baseball game between Kansas City Royals and St Louis Cardinals was delayed because of rain in the ninth innings. The umpires waited for four and a half hours before it resumed. By the time the last pitch was thrown, it was 3.14am.

The handful of fans that stayed on got to see a completed game.

What little play we did have was all about redemption.

Four years ago, Ravindra Jadeja was booed off at Lord's after a tardy innings cost the team the game against England, and resulted in early elimination.

Here, he smacked 33 off 25 balls, including an astonishing six over long-off off James Anderson and then picked up two for 24 with controlled left-arm spin.

The 19th over of the innings saw Jos Buttler flummoxed and bowled, and Tim Bresnan run out, with only three runs conceded. From there, there was no way back.

For England, the near-hero was Ravi Bopara. A belligerent 30 followed a brilliant spell of three for 20.

Had the pull off Ishant Sharma been a yard either side, England would have been celebrating a first title.

The margins in sport can be cruel indeed.

Dileep Premachandran is editor-in-chief of Wisden India


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