x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

World Twenty20 a washout so far

Let us hope the Super Eights make up for the weather and scheduling issues at the tournament.

The World Twenty20 turned out to be a disappointing outing for Ireland whose players deserved better, according to our columnist. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP Photo
The World Twenty20 turned out to be a disappointing outing for Ireland whose players deserved better, according to our columnist. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP Photo

The first week and group stages of the fourth ICC World Twenty20 is complete, a strange, incomplete-feeling stage hit by rain, scheduling follies and Irish anger. Here are five little and large discussion points from the week.

Monsoon cricket

Sri Lanka has complicated weather patterns, admittedly. Two monsoons need to be accounted for, one cycle affecting the north and east of the country from October to January, the other from May to August for the southern and western regions.

Of the three venues for the World Twenty20, two – Colombo and Hambantota – are west and south enough to be part of the latter cycle (Pallekele, in Kandy is more central). Yet three games from 11 in the first week (before the final group games last night) had been disrupted by heavy rains in Hambantota and Colombo; one game between Sri Lanka and South Africa was reduced to Seven7 and one between West Indies and Ireland abandoned.

The ICC defended the timing by saying this was the only free window in the calendar and, on paper, the monsoon should not be affecting this region right now. But there is a reason why Sri Lanka have organised only one international series at home in October, a one-day international series in 2007 against England.

The weathermen are expecting more rain in Colombo, raising the spectre of the 2002 Champions Trophy in the city; Sri Lanka and India had to share the trophy after the final was washed out two days in a row.

Minnow rage

All those months of effort, particularly during a gruelling qualifying tournament in the UAE, to be in Sri Lanka for the World Twenty20 and what did Ireland and Afghanistan get for it? A format and scheduling which saw them both eliminated before some national anthems had been completed. Ireland did not even get to play two entire games.

Had there been more associate sides in this tournament, as was the original plan, which fell victim to the politicking of the full members who constitute the ICC board, they would have had more games.

It was too much for Trent Johnston, the Irish legend likely playing his last major tournament.

Before the game against the West Indies he lashed out, accusing the weakest Test-playing members Bangladesh and Zimbabwe of chickening out from playing Ireland more regularly and, thus, stunting their drive to become a full member.

And, he added for good measure, he does not appreciate being called a minnow. "I'm sick of hearing 'minnow' on the TV. It's disrespectful to the guys that are here training and putting the work in, and it's disrespectful to the people back in Ireland and back in Afghanistan and the others in the associate levels who put so much time and effort into cricket."

This rage will be the issue that continues to lurk at all ICC events until more is done to give countries such as Afghanistan and Ireland greater incentives to play cricket than five days in the sun every couple of years.

If nobody watches, is it happening?

Maybe it is the rains, maybe the fixture-scheduling, maybe that in Hambantota it just is not easy to get to the stadium, but crowds have been absent for too many games. Maybe it is just that, finally, there has been too much Twenty20 for spectators to turn up for more?

Or maybe, increasingly in some parts of the world, cricket is becoming a sport best experienced on television.

Sri Lanka: where the pitches are low and slow?

Before the tournament began, the smart thinking was that good spin attacks would thrive and succeed on these pitches.

It might still be that spin wins it as the pitches get worn out, but in the first week, at least, some surfaces have been quicker and bouncier than any Sri Lankan pitch in recent memory. Fortunately, that leaves the tournament deliciously open as the Super Eights begin, as equally to sides relying on pace (Australia, England, South Africa) as those on spin (Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka).

Has the tournament begun yet?

With due apologies to Brendon McCullum's hundred and Ireland's fury, it does not really feel like the fourth World Twenty20 has actually started. Overlooking the disruptions from rain, the strange scheduling of games has been the main culprit: some teams were eliminated before some others had even played a game and barely a game of true consequence so far (let alone even a sniff of an upset).

With all the expected teams through to the Super Eights, the tournament can finally begin.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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