Sunday, 10 June 2012

Bad light stops Test cricket in its tracks

Today, one over after tea, the umpires came together and my heart sank. Shortly after, they led the players off the field. Bad light stopped play. Twenty five minutes later the light was about the same, so everyone wandered out again. Six overs later, the light had apparently deteriorated enough for them to have to go off again. Again, the umpires stood around checking the light for ages, then half an hour later they walked out at 6pm to resume the Test match. An absolute shambles.

The biggest problem with the bad light rules and regulations is the opaqueness of the whole process. While most other rules in cricket are pretty transparent and easily understood (with the exception of Duckworth-Lewis) the ICC rule for taking players off for bad light are ridiculous and basically unknown.

In the ICC playing conditions it says:
The umpires shall be the final judges of the fitness of the ground, weather and light for play
So far, so simple. Now they expand on this:
If at any time the umpires together agree that the conditions of ground, weather or light are so bad that there is obvious and foreseeable risk to the safety of any player or umpire, so that it would be unreasonable or dangerous for play to take place, then they shall immediately suspend play, or not allow play to commence or to restart. The decision as to whether conditions are so bad as to warrant such action is one for the umpires alone to make. 
I think, the important words there are: 'risk' and 'dangerous.' It's difficult to tell, watching on TV whether the light is dangerous, but I think the reactions of the players and the spectators at the grounds are the things that need to be taken into account, and the incredulous reaction as the umpires led the players off the field twice today speak everything. A little dim light surely isn't that dangerous?

The light meters are the most opaque part of the whole process:
Light meter readings may accordingly be used by the umpires:  
a)  To determine whether there has been at any stage a deterioration or improvement in the light.
b)  As benchmarks for the remainder of a stoppage, match and/or series/event.
Nobody knows what the benchmarks have to be, but basically it seems that the umpires decide that it's too dark, take a reading, use that as a benchmark and not come out until the light gets better. But how much better? And do the benchmarks change from match to match? There are so many questions, and until the ICC clarifies this or changes the rules, farces like today will continue to happen.

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