The T20 World Cup in Australia has thrown up surreal performances, upsets and, of course, controversies as the tournament hits its midpoint. Throw in an epic Pakistan and India MCG clash for the agesand it’s certainly been a memorable opening couple of weeks of the tournament, which had been postponed by two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite all of that, it hasn’t entirely gone smoothly with unpredictable weather in Australia’s east coast creating havoc. None more so than on Friday, where inclement conditions in Melbourne caused two washouts, including the much-hyped contest between Australia and England, where more than 70,000 fans were set to descend on the MCG.
Australia’s weather, particularly in the infamously temperamental Melbourne, has been trending on social media, mainly due to fanatical fans in the subcontinent anxious about whether their teams will be impacted.
Due to a phenomenon called La Nina, which occurs every few years, weather patterns have been disrupted and there has been much more rain on Australia’s east coast. If games are abandoned, which has happened multiple times, spectators get a full refund costing organizers. According to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, the organizers will have to spend millions in compensation.
It has led to predictable think pieces over the scheduling of the tournament, which is right at the start of the Australian cricket season and during a transition from the popular football codes of Australian rules football and rugby league.
Cricket slumbers into its Australian season, peaking during the summer school holidays in December and January. The festive season, combined with warm weather familiarly connotated with Australia, is when cricket dominates the mainstream consciousness but it’s not possible to schedule the T20 World Cup then due to international cricket’s cramped calendar.
With so many T20 franchise leagues bobbing up, further eroding space exacerbated by expectations that the filthy rich Indian Premier League will only expand, the best available time for cricket’s World Cups – ODI and T20 – are from mid-to-late in the year. That coincides with monsoon season in India, where it will be a serious waste of cricket’s money spinner to organize matches during that period.
It, of course, leaves little wriggle room to schedule the tournament in Australia. The 2015 World Cup in Australia was played at a far more appealing part of the calendar in February and March at the backend of the summer when the public is still in cricket mode and momentum from the season has been built.
In this tournament, apart from when mighty India, and their legion of passionate fans, descend into town, it has been rather out of sight generally. During the tournament’s week-long stay in Perth, there wasn’t much fanfare in a city that only had just gotten out of the stranglehold of the dominant Australian Football League’s afterseason trade shenanigans.
Crowds were modest with even India’s blockbuster clash against South Africa attracting 44,000 which was lower than expectations. Bad weather stayed away, fortunately, in a city where rain is fairly barren from October through April, although temperatures plummeted to mid-winter levels on Sunday which may have deterred some punters.
Still, there isn’t much point moaning because there doesn’t appear any alternative for when Australia will next host the T20 World Cup in 2028 alongside New Zealand.
It’s not all doom and gloom. A silver lining in this rain affected tournament is that the permutations have been thrown into havoc and the stakes raised with every game. There is suddenly more incentive for teams to be bolder and play aggressively in a bid to boost their net run rate, which might be the difference between making the semi-finals or not.
It’s made for an intriguing T20 World Cup and a leveler with some Associates and smaller Full Members enjoying momentous victories and proving they deserve more opportunities against the big countries. While powerhouses and favorites Australia, England and India have all suffered defeats already.
The matches have generally been riveting marked by a number of low-scoring thrillers with ball dominating bat, which is rare in a format normally skewed towards batters. There has been notable seam movement in the powerplay making batting particularly sluggish and teams unable to get off to trademark fliers.
A consolation of the earlier start in the calendar is that pitches aren’t as hard yet and, amid gloomier overhead conditions, spicier wickets have resulted and so too a more even contest between bat and ball. There has been a renaissance for quick bowlers in this format, where spinners for some time had been deemed more valuable and harder to score off.
The resulting unpredictability has powered one of the best World Cups in history despite the elements.