So, it's finally India-Pakistan, the ICC's biggest moment planned for this Sunday at Manchester, the platinum-ticket event which no one wants to miss, apparently not even the rain!
On the weather chart, the precipitation is slated to rise to an alarming 60 per cent with at least one and a half hour of rain predicted on match day, June 16. Otherwise, it is to be a cloudy day with spotty showers on a humidity level of 75 per cent, meaning Pakistani pace battery Amir after his fifer burst against Australia will be raring to go.
All fingers, thus, are crossed and prayers in place that the skies give this blockbuster safe passage. A day-and-a-half before the match it rained the entire morning with the sun deciding to come out only towards the afternoon, giving huge sighs of relief, till the next cloud came to cover up the sunshine moment.
The India-Pakistan tie has drawn fans from all over the world, including both sides of the border, America, Canada, Australia and the Middle East to name a few regions. “We are here all the way from Bahrain for this match and we will lose Rs 1 lakh in match ticket money if the match gets impacted by the rain,” said VK George who just checked into Manchester on Monday.
Rain has been unreasonably intense this season, so much so that locals call it unprecedented. But if one were to check the rain records of England, June has always been its wettest summer month, raising many eyebrows on the scheduling of the Cup in this month. “Barring last year, for five summers, June has rained like never before and this June is no different so I don’t know why ICC or anyone else should be so surprised," said James Barry, a Nott who feels cloud seeding like China did during the Olympics could keep some of the rain at bay.
Besides disrupting player readiness for the match, a downpour plays havoc on the points table too. As many as seven teams, including India, have lost a point to rain, Lanka being the most unlucky one to have lost two. India was on a winning spree, having defeated South Africa and Australia on the trot, before being put on hold by the weather at Trent Bridge.
“It is frustrating to wait in the dressing room on a rainy day. It’s a challenge for the players and the support staff to switch down but not really switch off, because the match could start at any time, so they have to be prepared in the back of the mind. At the same time, not think too much about the game and keep yourself a little busy, reading, some music, or chatting with friends. But we deal with it all the time,” India's fielding coach R Sridhar said at Trent Bridge.
Asked by a journalist if ICC should be discouraged from holding a World Cup in a country which has so much rain, New Zealand coach Gary Stead said: “I don't think so. If you took the UK summer from last year, then I’m not sure it did rain at all from the sound of things. It’s a bit of bad luck really. It can rain anywhere in the world. My first tour was in Dubai and it rained there in the desert and I never thought it was going to rain there either,” he added.
Rain downtime management has also been a challenge for the teams. “The first thing we're going to do is have a couple of days off. We don't play again for about six days now and it's important that you manage your breaks. It’s quite ironic. Our last four trainings have all been indoors. It's just what we have to deal with. We try to pride ourselves on our adaptability,” Stead said.
The other challenge becomes the change of strategy and tactics for an under the weather game. “If the match is short, the planning has to be changed. With the weather overcast like that, every team would want to win the toss and bowl first,” Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmad said before the match against Australia.
But as West Indies head coach Floyd Relfer concluded: “It’s England. 90 per cent rain. Nothing we can do about it. So just take the one point and look forward to the other games.”
Hopefully, Virat Kohli on June 16 would not be forced to talk on hindsight about the weather and yet another point lost.