Sidharth Monga
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Not right as rain

T20 is far removed from traditional cricket; it's time it got a specialised rain rule

Sidharth Monga

September 25, 2012

Comments: 20 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson runs through the rain, Australia v West Indies, World Twenty20 2012, Group B, Colombo, September 22, 2012
Rain leads to either ridiculously short contests or flawed revised targets in T20s. Or both © AFP
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Series/Tournaments: ICC World Twenty20

Twenty20 cricket is religion to some, a leap of faith to others, and blasphemy to the rest. During this rainy season in Sri Lanka, though, those who worship at T20's altar will have their faith tested. On the best and driest of days it is argued, and not without merit, that Twenty20 is not exactly cricket. A batsman's wicket is devalued over such a short duration, and the bowler is often so marginalised that he is slave to the skill and luck of the batsman, who has lost all fear because of the devaluation of his wicket. And when Twenty20 matches are curtailed because of rain, regardless of whether it happens before or during the game, they become ridiculous affairs.

Twenty20 was a bit of a lark featuring vintage jerseys, fake moustaches and one real Afro when international cricket first embraced it, but it is serious business now - serious enough to cause diplomatic rows and for players to ditch their national sides. It is not hit and giggle anymore.

However, even 10 years and four World Cups since the inception of Twenty20, no controlling body has grasped that this format is far removed from traditional cricket, and that it needs its own grammar and its own playing conditions, especially on rainy days. The bottom line, the fact that it provides a result in three hours, is the only obsession. That we will go to ludicrous lengths - finishing a match in 60 balls - and that we haven't yet scaled Duckworth-Lewis to this format makes a mockery of what is still officially called cricket.

Two group matches of this World Twenty20 sum up what is wrong with the rain rules especially when the equilibrium between bat and ball is already stretched to within a thin strand of snapping. The first was the contest between Sri Lanka and South Africa, which was reduced to seven overs a side, the shortest pre-decided innings in limited-overs internationals. Had they moved the "match" to Stardust casino in Colombo, it would have involved less luck.

An ODI is considered a match only when the teams have played 20 overs or ended their innings, which is 40% of the original duration. A Twenty20 is considered a match as soon as the teams have played 25% of the original duration. If such reduced games are to be taken seriously, surely the wickets in hand have to come down proportionately? Limited-overs cricket without the fear of being bowled out and thus not utilising all the overs is no fun. An F5 to decide the world champions will be right ridiculous.

There is also the flawed belief that the Duckworth-Lewis method doesn't need to be adapted to 20-over games. Not many will argue that D/L is a fair system to resolve rain-interrupted ODIs, with an agreeable weightage assigned to wickets in hand. Some will argue that the rival to D/L - the VJD method, formulated by an Indian mathematician - is better, but the difference between the two is as big as split hairs.

However, it is plain to see that wickets in hand don't mean nearly as much in Twenty20 as they do in ODIs. Not, it seems, to ICC and D/L. In a bylined article on ESPNcricinfo in September 2012, Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis wrote, "Experience from extensive data over recent years shows that the same formula very closely fits both 50-over and T20 average totals and also other lengths of matches in between (eg: South Africa's and ECB's 40-over competitions). Consequently, the same single formula satisfactorily covers all the various formats of the limited-overs game."

Consequently, a team chasing 200 needs to be just 46 for 0 if no play is possible after five overs. In a full game, when defending 199, most fielding teams will take the opposition being 46 after five Powerplay overs, never mind the number of wickets, but that perfectly acceptable bowling effort will result in a loss if it rains. In the match that started minutes after the seven-over farce in Hambantota, Australia were declared winners after they reached 100 for 1 in 9.1 overs in pursuit of 192, because rain prevented further play. That they won is not a surprise, but that they would have tied the game even if they were 100 for 5 is. It suggests the five remaining wickets are massively overvalued.

Duckworth and Lewis are learned scientists and they have a formula that the lay follower can't comprehend or access, but it is also obvious that using the same ODI formula doesn't work for high-scoring Twenty20 games. The threat of rain looming over the later rounds of this World Twenty20 has brought into focus the shortcomings of both the minimum overs required for a result, and the method used to arrive at those results.

It needed Sydney 1992 to happen for cricket to seriously start thinking of a proper rain rule in ODIs. It shouldn't take a farcical final in Sri Lanka for T20 to follow suit.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by bobmartin on (September 26, 2012, 16:05 GMT)

@SIRSOBERS... Sorry to be a pedant.. but what the heck has your post got to do with the D/L system...

Posted by BRUTALANALYST on (September 26, 2012, 10:48 GMT)

W,I should go for 2 spinners v NZ & ENGLAND out here and maybe even open with Gayle Luke Wright is a slapper like Warner he loves pace on the ball early on but both are weak against spin. I was surprised W.I didn't open with spin v Warner and Watson next time i think that would be a better option.

Posted by spanishwestindian on (September 26, 2012, 9:04 GMT)

Love the title of the article! D/L has damn all to do with cricket, which as we all know, is a totally unpredictable game. T20 is already a bit of a slugfest, so reducing it further becomes utterly ridiculous (e.g. chasing a low target with all wickets intact). The only solution possible is to have extra days to complete a match, which was the case in many world cups in the past.

Posted by bobmartin on (September 26, 2012, 4:30 GMT)

@ meetagod has it right... a rain shortened T20 match should not be decided mathematically. How could a mathematical formula take account of an unpredictable event...for example; a single over by a bowler going for 36 runs..or even bowling a 3 wicket maiden over. Unlikely events agreed, but not impossible. The only fair way as in other sports is to reschedule the match or extend the hours of play or call it a draw. Why this obsession with what is in effect manufacturing a result.

Posted by   on (September 26, 2012, 4:09 GMT)

Never been a fan of D/L. I strongly believe that one good over can totally change the course of the game. Good example would be Pak vs Nz match, where Pakistan were 91-1 in 10 overs and ended up scoring 177 where as per D/L they might have had 200 odd runs.... Similarly while chasing Nz were around 70 odd runs short in last 5 overs and had the game to be decided on D/L, NZ was out of the game, however the match was very much on till the last over. ICC should consider the amount of money people are spending to watch these matches, so the only way they should repay cricket fans is by completing matches by keeping extra days in the schedule

Posted by D-Ascendant on (September 26, 2012, 2:03 GMT)

I'm thinking that if the rain stops in time permit play on that night, why not just finish the entire 40 overs? I don't agree that the game *has* to get over by 10.30, why not extend it by an hour or two if necessary?

Posted by xylo on (September 25, 2012, 23:10 GMT)

An interesting alternative would be to reduce the number of players on each side as well, so captains would have to think about leaving out batsmen/bowlers as the number of overs to play decreases. Say, the match is reduced to 12 overs each side, only 8 players would be allowed to play from each side.

Posted by meetagod on (September 25, 2012, 23:03 GMT)

Play the game till the end, without predictions. DL method is as good as head and tail. If we can predict the game result, why do we even play at all. No other sport has this kind of unfair predictions. Introduce rain dates and play till the end. No unfair business. Just winners and loosers, no draws unless it is ended that way. Honestly bring some fair rules into game.

Posted by alstar2281 on (September 25, 2012, 22:57 GMT)

Lets just call it a draw and be done with it.

Posted by khanc on (September 25, 2012, 22:25 GMT)

> An ODI is considered a match only when the teams have played 20 overs or ended their innings, which is 40% of the original duration. A Twenty20 is considered a match as soon as the teams have played 25% of the original duration.

This is ludicrous. The smaller the number of "units" (overs in this case), the higher the importance of each unit. So for a T20 to qualify as a match, it should have a *higher* percentage of overs bowled than for an ODI. This is elementary common sense. I too was surprised a 7 over match was considered completed. It was a travesty. The absolute minimum should be something like 60% or 12 overs, though I'd feel more comfortable if the match is rescheduled - similar to how tennis or baseball do it. The game is short enough.

Posted by GenghisCohen on (September 25, 2012, 21:32 GMT)

The problem with Duckworth-Lewis is that it assumes innings progress in a predictable way: if you have scored X runs for Y wickets after Z overs, then here is the final total the innings is likely to produce. This logic just doesn't apply to T20 where the result can hinge on such small things as one big over or a handful of dot balls. It is an exercise in trying to make the unpredictable predictable, which isn't why people come to watch T20.

One other thing about Duckworth-Lewis that has always bothered me (whether applied to T20s or ODIs) is that when an innings is halted or interrupted by rain, a projected or revised target doesn't take account of the quality of the bowlers already used and the quality of those who have overs left to bowl. If Dale Steyn has bowled out his overs when the rain comes down, might not the batting team have reasonably expected to score plenty more off the part-timers still to complete their overs?

Posted by TRAM on (September 25, 2012, 20:01 GMT)

Who says reducing the overs is the way to go (in case of rain)?? Why? Because the big money makers (TV media) want result in specified time slot?? Shall we change Olympic marathon from 26 miles to say 5 miles when it rains? Even in the millions $$ Tennis Grandslams, they dont reduce the match from 5 sets to 3 sets because of rain. They postpone the match until they can finish the 5 sets. We all know Test match is different, ODI is different, T20 is different. Why do we want to change the match itself?? Forget D&L method. Forget changing the match. T20 is already a fun cricket, and reducing it further makes it non-T20 and really stupid. Either arrange the matches during non-rainy seasons. OR make indoor stadiums at billions $$$. Or simply, arrange the tours with one day cushion for each match (as they did in 1983 cricket world cup). Dont spoil the game for media's demands.

Posted by   on (September 25, 2012, 19:11 GMT)

Unless there is a repeat of some instance like that of 92, the rules will not be changed

Posted by   on (September 25, 2012, 18:44 GMT)

Gee... wonder where the author got this idea from ? >:->

Posted by Pelham_Barton on (September 25, 2012, 17:36 GMT)

There appear to me to be four possible courses of action: (1) Ensure that all scheduled matches are played to their full length. This would require either allowing concurrent matches with loss of television revenue or extending the length of the tournament with a substantial increase in costs for teams, reporters, and (most importantly in my view) spectators. (2) Increase the minimum number of overs for a result, possibly to 20, so that any game that cannot be completed counts as a "no result". This carries the risk of a serious injustice, if a team on the brink of victory has to settle for a single point when rain comes. (3) Continue with D/L as it is. (4) Replace D/L by a different rain rule. For any such rule to be taken seriously, user friendly software must be devised and opened to the same detailed public scrutiny as D/L. The new method must be shown to outperform D/L overall across the whole range of plausible scenarios, using a better "gold standard" than gut feeling.

Posted by Harvey on (September 25, 2012, 16:30 GMT)

I agree totally. I've been saying for a long time that D/L gives the team batting 2nd a huge advantage in T20. The trouble is that Messrs Duckworth & Lewis apparently don't recognise that their system doesn't work for the shortest format, so it will therefore need someone else to come up with something. It's much easier to say something is wrong than to come up with something better of course, and to do so would certainly be way beyond my capability!

Posted by Flat_Track_bullies on (September 25, 2012, 16:08 GMT)

Well said Sidharth. But ICC still is highly influenced by boys in England - I very much doubt they will consider replacing to alternative method - even though this seems blindingly obvious.

Why would you ask Duckworth-Lewis to judge on applicability of the method. Isn't it common sense what they would like to see?

Posted by mark2011 on (September 25, 2012, 15:50 GMT)

D/L may be needed to modifiy bcos it has considered 50 game's history and patterns of scores/wickets in hand etc.. so when it comes to T20, the context is different, the pace of the game is intense, certainly need some amendments. but one thing... bcos of the rain, T20 matches shoud not be simply play for 5-7 ovrs quota, though it represent 20% or so..if u look at from percentage angle it is ridiculous, to just 5-7 overs, whatever format it has to be criket, you can t play baseball here.. so the substance of the game should be preserved....imo t20 should be maximum reduce only 15 over incase of rain, if not it should be abandoned and play on extra day... otherwise criket looks too ridiculous!!!

Posted by   on (September 25, 2012, 14:32 GMT)

They have to value each wicket on a sliding scale. 1st wicket the highest and 10th wicket the lowest. Many more variables have to be accounted for, each players current form based on the payer rankings etc and seed each player in the two teams relative to each other before the calculation. e.g. if the batting team has 4 wickets and 50 runs to get but, lleft and Malinga has 2 overs left out of 5 more then the batting team will lose from there 7/10 times. So anyways...the VJD and DL methods have a major flaw anyways as they never take the players capabilities into account. In a game of skill that is the biggest thing they should be accounting for not just the environmental variables.

Posted by Romanticstud on (September 25, 2012, 14:13 GMT)

It is about time someone came up with an adequate solution. This needing 43 runs off 1 ball or similar situation just because of some formula is useless in determining a winner ... A typical solution is to take a game ... instead of starting the game late in the day start a T20 as you would a ODI ... have the same amount of time to complete it as you would an ODI ... i.e. play until you get 20 overs a side in ... so if the game starts at 10 ... it could be over by 1 o'clock under normal circumstances ... but if rain hits you could still have enough time to complete a game starting at 2 pm from scratch ... or even still 6 pm under lights ... allocate sufficient time for both teams to get all their overs in ... then it is simple 1+ the runs the other team made ... If no play is possible at 8pm ... call it off and maybe have a reserve day to start the game ... if it is a 5 over shoot out ... then it is a lottery ...

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