Of the 45 matches scheduled for the group-stage of the 2019 World Cup, four of them were abandoned without a result. Two of them impacted the make-up of the four teams playing in the semi-finals.
On 7 June, persistent rain and a wet outfield caused the match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka to be abandoned without a ball being bowled. Pakistan would have entered this game feeling very confident of their chances.
In the past two years, Pakistan have played six completed matches against Sri Lanka and won them all in convincing fashion. In the closest match, Pakistan still chased down Sri Lanka’s total with three wickets and 31 balls to spare.
On 13 June, the match between India and New Zealand was also abandoned due to rain. India would have entered this game as clear favourites against the Black Caps.
India have emerged victorious in six of the last eight completed matches against New Zealand. India’s recent strong record against New Zealand applies regardless of the match conditions. In January 2019, they played a five-game one-day series in NZ, which was won 4-1 by India.
As conditions in New Zealand are reasonably similar to England, India would have been favourites to beat their antipodean opposition.
New Zealand and Pakistan finished the group stage of the 2019 World Cup tied on 11 points with the Kiwis’ superior net run rate seeing them qualify for the first semi-final against India.
However, had either one of these abandoned matches been played, the situation could have been different. If Pakistan has been able to defeat Sri Lanka or had New Zealand lost to India, then Pakistan would have qualified for the semi-finals instead of New Zealand.
None of this is to say that New Zealand didn’t deserve to qualify for the final four. All teams went in to this tournament knowing there were no reserve match days and that net run rate would be a tiebreaker.
It was Pakistan’s heavy loss to the West Indies and New Zealand’s thrashing of Sri Lanka that played a great role in the final standings.
This result shows the flaws in the ICC’s decision not to schedule reserve days for the duration of the tournament.
ICC chief Dave Richardson said these abandonments were due to “extremely unreasonable weather”.
This statement would be reasonable if the World Cup was being played in the drier climates of the sub-continent. However, the amount of rain seen in this tournament is not unusual for an English summer.
In May, June and July, the major cities in England have an average of ten to 14 rainy days. Not all of these rainy days cause abandonment of a cricket match, but it is also far from unlikely that matches in England will be impacted by the weather.
The other ICC argument against scheduling reserve days is that it would increase the length of the tournament. This is another claim that does not stand up to scrutiny.
During the group stage, no teams played on consecutive days and they generally had breaks of three to five days between matches. It may not have been necessary to add days to the overall schedule.
Also, as England is a relatively small nation with a strong transport network, it is less impactful on the teams if a reserve day is used and there is a shorter time to travel to the next match.
Ultimately, it is the ICC’s responsibility to organise a tournament that gives each of the competing nations the fairest possible chance to lift the trophy.
The decision not to schedule reserve days for the group stage was inconsistent with this responsibility and could have potentially impacted the final standings of the 2019 World Cup.