Working around Mother Nature

2012-10-27 00:00

RAIN — it’s one of life’s conundrums.

Some pray and beg for it, others live in anticipation of it and the destruction it may bring, while most appreciate it as a giver of life and sustenance.

For the cricket player and follower, it’s one of life’s greatest irritations, something that is needed to be able to play, but also something that comes at the wrong time and overstays its welcome.

Take the current season as an example. It’s just over a month old, yet actual playing time in all the scheduled matches, whether it be four-day or T20, amounts to a few hours; such has been the interference from rain.

There must be some drastic climatic changes going on, for as hard as we may try to play cricket at this time of year, especially in KwaZulu-Natal, it’s a sure bet that rain will have the final say and leave all well intended plans in ruins.

It’s ironic that cricket is a summer sport, when there is rain in the air, but it’s become a matter of serious concern that mere mention of the word cricket is enough to have the clouds banking up, light fading and water coming from above.

It’s out of our control, but it sends a firm message that Mother Nature cares not for the traditions and values of the noble game. Instead, she prefers to chase players, administrators and others involved from pillar to post as she plays tricks and taunts us with dashes of sunlight followed by torrents of rain, all within a few hours of each other.

It may never happen, but why can’t cricket be played in winter, especially in this province?

It’s nothing new that this is the rainy time along the coast, but without going into too much detail, let’s put it out there that such an idea might be feasible at the least.

Years ago, there was a plain line between cricket and rugby. Cricket was played in summer and rugby in winter. It worked like clockwork, but the advent of the professional era and big money coming into the equation has seen most sporting codes played throughout the year, with a few weeks break at best.

Playing rugby in summer was unheard of until Super Rugby came along. Now the first round of matches kicks off in mid February, the height of the humid, sweltering summer, and it seems to work fine. Why not something similar for cricket?

Players from the Cape and KZN are generally in one voice saying it’s crazy to try and play their home games at this time of year. There is too much rain and more often than not, the exercise is fruitless. They propose to schedule away matches, playing in Gauteng or the Free State, where the storms are normally quick and followed by sun to help dry things again. There is some truth in that, but not all matches can be arranged as such.

Why not start cricket season in June? Play from June to the end of August, getting some four-day matches out of the way before the spring rains arrive. There is a break from September to early December when the season resumes. Yes, while there is rain in December, most of the heavy loads , as such, have come in the previous months and at least here, there is more chance of actually getting on the field and playing.

Play goes on from December through to March or early April and then the cycle begins again.

It may sound far-fetched and there will be many cynics keen to shoot the idea down, but the essence of it all is getting playing time. The game is played by full-time professionals nowadays and they are desperate to get some work done. It’s a kin to a businessman arriving at his office daily to find the power is down and the best he can do is turn on his heels and head for home. Great as it may sound in the beginning, it’s bound to become a stale joke after a while.

And that’s what is happening to our cricket season right now. On the domestic level, the Dolphins have yet to have a full day’s play in a home four-day clash, of which they have hosted two. One was completely washed out and the other started late and finished early on day two, with play on the next two days washed out. The Knights have had three four-day matches — against the Cobras, Dolphins and Warriors — abandoned without a ball being bowled. That’s 12 days, nearly half a month of cricket lost.

Thankfully, there are no Test matches in our fair land at the moment, as they too would turn into magnificent holidays for the visiting players who would have come miles to watch the rain falling. The current Champions League T20 has also been plagued by the rain, with numerous matches called off.

Cricket SA has been on tenterhooks the past few days, hoping above all else to get the scheduled semi-finals and final done and dusted, on the day and in the time allowed. Back up plans have already been tabled, which although great for the spectator, puts huge demands on the players.

Be that as it may and cricket being a game of steadfast tradition, there will never be a change in the season and the rain will continue to wreak havoc. It may be dry in winter, but at least the days are hot and bad light is always an issue in KZN anyway, so stopping at 4 pm wouldn’t move the goalposts too much. It could be worth a thought. For the cricket purists, we just want to see the game being played and a good scrap going the full distance.

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