<b>Close-in:</b> D/L and all that jazz
The ongoing Champions Trophy has become an interesting potboiler. The English weather has played its part in making it a challenge for most sides. Rain has played spoilsport in nearly every game that has been played so far, an outcome so predictable in England in the month of June.
A major tournament like Champions Trophy, considered by all as the mini World Cup, must be planned in a way that all uncertainties are well taken care of. An extra day for eventualities like rain is an absolute must. The World Cup in England in the earlier days had this as an option and so for it to be discontinued was quite thoughtless.
The prime reason one gathers is because of the packed international schedule to be followed. This truly does not augur well for an international tournament being conducted by the ICC. The top eight teams of the world have qualified to fight a battle to gain that extra ounce of advantage before the World Cup in 2019. One sincerely hopes that England, the hosts for the next World Cup, insists on having an additional day when the cup commences in 2019.
The Duckworth Lewis (D/L) method has always been a questionable formula when it comes to gaining acceptance from the teams as well as the players. Cricket has many variables and to accurately forecast each one of them is humanly impossible. Runs, overs and wickets are just some of the parameters that are considered. The ground and wicket conditions, the bowlers and batsmen yet to be utilised and most importantly, the mental pressure that the players and the teams face get side tracked in the mathematical formulations.

Cricket is a dream game when it is analysed by bookworms. Sheer numbers and averages can’t assess the true performance of a cricketer or a team. I, therefore, find comparisons fruitless and ridiculous, but as one enthusiastic cricket lover so rightly told me: “How else can we feel cricket-educated to debate on it.”
The India versus Pakistan game on June 4 was a good example of mind over matter. The young Pakistan cricketers were like petrified rabbits and were made to look rudderless once India got into the groove. The same Pakistan team looked completely different against South Africa, although one did feel that chasing 219 runs would have been a difficult task for them had rain not come into play. The D/L calculations came to their advantage and now the race for qualifying for the semifinals has become very interesting in both the groups. The win against South Africa has increased Pakistan’s confidence immensely ahead of the virtual quarterfinal tie against Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka too will take a lot of heart from its record-breaking chase against India on Thursday.

Rain has also affected Australia and New Zealand during the group stages. Australia was unlucky to not secure full points against Bangladesh and will now have to defeat England to reach the last four stage. Hosts England seems to have got their act together and look threatening. They chased a huge total against Bangladesh, before completely demolishing New Zealand.
The match between India and South Africa on Sunday will be a do or die tie for both the sides. The Proteas once again look nervous at the world stage, especially with captain AB de Villers struggling for runs while the middle order too looks brittle. They are presently the top-ranked ODI side in the world and the quicker they visualise it, the better it would be for them.
India looked like a champion side against archrivals Pakistan. The border skirmish and the political instability between the two nations did turn the Indo-Pak encounter into a power battle away from the war zones. Fortunately, India emerged victorious.
Although the final group match against South Africa is crucial, the big win against Pakistan should give India the mental comfort, carefree attitude and momentum to push for victory.
The playing conditions in England have
changed drastically. The pitches have become wonderful for the batsmen. The modern covers have resulted in dry, slow and predictable bouncy wickets. This has given the batsmen more time to adjust
their stroke play. On a nice sunny day, the wicket is a paradise for the batters and nightmare for the bowlers.

The 50-over format is becoming a tedious affair to watch for today’s youth, if one goes by their feedback. Each team has three power plays to plan its innings. The first one, which allows two players outside the 30-yard circle, is designed to encourage stroke play and produce some lusty hitting. This has not materialised fully as batsmen have now improved their batting skills and can increase the tempo even when further field restrictions come into play. The ICC needs to come out with some innovative options to liven the 50-over format, as the present matches are becoming slow and boring for the active and vibrant 20-20 fans.
The white cricket ball has also thrown up an interesting aspect. The English conditions are ideal for movement in the air and off the wicket. But the white ball seems to be doing neither. This is making batting even simpler.
The one aspect that I feel requires immediate attention, however, is the D/L method. It has never made sense and as MS Dhoni said, “Even the ICC does not understand it.” A very bold and correct statement coming from a man who must have had a lot of heart pounding moments thinking about it when he led India.
(The author is a former Indian cricketer)
Yajurvindra Singh