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World Cup Final – what went wrong

By SportApril, 2007December 13th, 20234 min read

Today, I am a zombie. After three hours of chatting and highlights, we were about to give up and go to bed, and then saw that the covers had come off (again), and the umpires had reduced the game to 38 overs. While this was not as bad as a potential Twenty20-style slogfest to decide the World Cup champion, already some gloss had come off, and the slightly shortened game seemed to advantage Australia before a ball was bowled.

It appeared that the bad weather had cleared, and the game proceeded well, but toward the end, when the game was all but decided, it quickly descended into a bad joke (which is even less funny when you have been fueled by Red Bull and pizza for eight hours). The umpires were not consistent in their application of rules for rain delays, and did not communicate the changed conditions to the captains once the game was reduced. In the end, this was not material. The real problem arose when it became too dark to play safely, and the players were “offered” the light yet again and decided to accept it.

Was the game over? Most people thought so, especially the players from both teams. But when Aleem Dar interrupted Australia’s celebrations (and the setup of the presentation) to discuss the disposition of the final three overs of play, things quickly went pear-shaped. Incredibly, the decision to play these overs was actually correct according to the rules.

In the end, it was actually a very appropriate finale to a World Cup that was too long, had too many meaningless matches, too much controversy, and not enough people actually attending. Hopefully, the ICC will act to ensure the format is improved in future. There are plenty of good suggestions about how to do this.

The big issue is: why did things get so crazy at the end?

The Duckworth-Lewis rule was created to deal with weather-shortened games in the fairest way possible. It is designed to ensure that a match can be completed with a result even if the full complement of overs is not available. However, it is predicated on the assumption that only one day is available for the match. Given that constraint, the system works well to salvage whatever is possible from one day’s play.

However, in major tournaments like the Champions Trophy and the World Cup, and even in the finals of triangular series, reserve/rain days are specifically placed into the schedule to ensure that a more complete contest occurs. In the extreme case, if the primary day is rained out, they can play the whole match again on the reserve day.

Essentially, the problem is that the interaction and overlap between these two bad weather rules has not been fully considered or tested. While you would apply D/L in a certain way with only one day scheduled for the match, you may not apply it at all if you had a reserve day (e.g. not reduce overs at all, but rather continue the full first innings, and resume the match on the second day).

While a one-day game that spans two days is hardly desirable, it is the lesser of two evils compared with the farce that occurred in the 2007 World Cup. Teams that make it to the finals deserve a contest in which the weather does not taint the result. Systems like D/L arise and are refined from years of actual experience dealing with inequities and anomalies that occur from time to time. This is an opportunity to make the systems just a little better.

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