Cricket for Americans: 7 June 2019: World Cup Update 3

Today’s match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan was abandoned without a ball bowled, thanks to a steady rain in Bristol. Which brings up an interesting lesson in the wide world of cricket: there are no make up matches. Well, I guess there could be for matches in knockout stages, but for group stage matches and regular tour matches the game is just abandoned and the points shared.

A while ago it was explained to me why this is. And it made sense at the time. But I can’t remember why it is. Mostly, I think it’s tradition, and keeps the weather from wreaking havoc on a tournament’s schedule. Pushing the match to tomorrow would give the two teams one fewer day of rest, which isn’t exactly fair, and if you started doing make up matches and giving teams equal days of rest, then the tournament would stretch on forever.

So, there you go, the points shared. But this has to be worrisome for the tournament’s organizers, and in a lot of ways a month long damp season is their worst nightmare. You lose matches so you lose revenue, and teams don’t get a fair shake at making the semi-finals. Imagine, if you will, if Pakistan miss out on the knockout stage by one point. That would be a real shame. But, the weather is the weather, it’s part of the game, both when the game is played and when it is not.

Since we last checked in, India beat South Africa, affectively ending the latter’s tournament. All they can do now is play spoiler. Meanwhile perennial dark horse New Zealand beat Bangladesh and Australia beat the West Indies. And so after 11 matches — including today’s washout — the table shapes up like this:

1. NZ, 2. Aus, 3. SL, 4. Pak, 5. WI, 6. Eng, 7. India, 8. Bang, 9. SA, 10. Afg.

Still very early days, of course, but New Zealand and Australia are well poised to make the knock out stage. Winning your early matches in this long group format is vital. It’s how you gain momentum, and allows you to rest players, and keeps you from having to play must-win after must-win after must-win at the death, which can be mentally exhausting on the players.

The last few days have also brought us our first bouts of controversy. To start, the officiating during Australia’s win over the West Indies has been roundly lambasted by both the press and the West Indies. There were numerous times when wickets were given against the chasing Windies after not one, not two, not three but four appeals. It was almost painful and the match commentators let the official have it — calling him weak. But the big moment was the blatant no-ball missed by the official on the delivery that preceded Chris Gayle’s wicket. If the no ball would have been called, Gayle would have had a free hit, instead he was walking back to the clubhouse on just 21 off of 17, and West Indies finished 15 runs short of the total Australia set them (in what was a thrilling and hard fought chase that was a real joy). It’s a shame. I don’t think the decision cost the West Indies the match, but it did kind of put a damper on a fun day of cricket.

Off the field there’s been controversy too — as there always seems to be in cricket. MS Dhoni’s wicket keeping gloves have a dagger on them that is similar to the regimental emblem of the Parachute Regiment of the Indian Territorial Army — of which Dhoni is an honorary Lt. Colonel. The ICC — which bans all messages on kits that display anything related to anything slightly political — was like “no way dude” and told him not to wear the gloves anymore. Now, considering what happened a few months ago in Kashmir the gloves can definitely be seen as an overtly political message. Personally, I think Dhoni had nothing of the sort in mind when he wore the gloves and even if he did it’s still rather innocuous. But I guess the ICC has to draw a hard line on this issue otherwise the floodgates will open. In a game that encompasses so much of the globe in all its glory and strife, that is probably for the best.

Dhoni and his national board have quietly accepted the decision. He will wear the gloves but cover the emblem with tape so the pearl clutchers can go back to watching cricket, safe from the knowledge that bad shit happens in the real world. Which I guess is okay too.

Cricket gonna cricket.

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