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The lack of a reserve day for the Champions Trophy final was a huge let-down by the ICC
June 23, 2013
So the ICC just got away with it. The rain relented, we had a final to remember, and the fans went home happy. That will be the official view. There may even be some pats on administrators' backs. But it only tells half the story.
Yes, the rain relented, yes, we had a 20-over final to savour, and yes, India, the best team in the tournament, won and their supporters celebrated long into the night.
But the administrators should not get away with it. By staging a final without a reserve day, they messed with the fans and got lucky. They should never be allowed to do so again.
The official explanation is that there were only 17 days to stage the tournament, that there was "no wriggle room", and that bilateral tours take precedence. Are fans really expected to take such an explanation seriously?
You can praise the players for contesting a fluctuating final in difficult conditions. You can listen to people intellectualising about the amount of cricket played, and how difficult it is to cram spare days into the schedule.
You can retreat into comforting jokes about the essential awfulness of the English summer and even speculate that global warming could make it more unbearable than ever. You can listen to thousands of explanations about logistics, about what is possible and what is not.
None of that matters. Do not accept any explanation that you hear. The administrators need to understand that to stage the final of a major one-day tournament without a reserve day is as purblind as it gets.
If you do something, you have to do it properly. If you tell spectators that a tournament is important, and sell TV rights and tickets on that basis, there are basic standards you have to meet to try to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.
We can all argue incessantly about the details: about how many sides should take part, how the groups should be drawn up, whether to pre-determine semi-final venues for the countries that qualify, how to choose between sides that finish on equal points.
We can argue about one white ball or two, about numbers in circles, whether to allow runners, whether balls can be bounced in to the stumps, how many bouncers in an over.
We can philosophise about whether the Champions Trophy really matters and whether essentially we would be better without it. But not to have a reserve day in a final is nonsense.
A final is what everyone has built up to for weeks. It justifies everything that has gone before. It justifies the efforts of the players and the dreams of the fans. Not to deliver this climax turns the entire tournament into a failure.
Shakespeare did not stop writing Hamlet after four acts because he had run out of time and he had to get on with The Merry Wives of Windsor. The football World Cup in Brazil will not end at the semi-final stage if the final is suspended because of a sudden cloudburst.
Even without an official reserve day, the authorities could have cobbled one together, as the rain fell, in case it was needed, with enough will and imagination.
Only five players in England's ODI squad are in the T20 squad to face New Zealand on Tuesday at The Oval. They have already ripped out virtually the entire Ashes squad. They could have removed a few more.
If India were about to catch a flight on the 24th to the Caribbean, for a triangular tournament against Sri Lanka and West Indies, they could have changed the flight. The first game is not until the 28th.
If there were not enough stewards, employ some. If they had no bar staff, close the bars. If the ICC officials had to get back to London for a meeting, then play the game without them. Tell them the result later.
If it rains for a week then you cannot do much about it. But by not including a reserve day, the administrators lost touch with the millions of fans who keep the game alive. They must never do so again.
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