The abrupt end to the third ODI between India and England in Kanpur due to fading light has sparked off a debate over the rules and their application. While players involved on Thursday called it "bizarre" and "disappointing", former cricketers pulled no punches, calling for the ICC to step in and ensure that lights at grounds are used to prevent "an absolute farce".
Graham Thorpe, the former England batsman, suggested the match referee (Roshan Mahanama, in this case) should take a firmer call and "act almost as the chief executive of the game."
The match began 45 minutes late, due to fog, and was reduced to 49 overs-a-side affair though the lunch break was not curtailed. With conditions deteriorating at the Green Park Stadium, the umpires, Russell Tiffin and Amiesh Saheba, offered India the light. It was immediately accepted and the D/L method was applied to declare India, batting at 198 for 5 in 40 overs, the winners by 16 runs. England had scored 240 in 48.4 overs.
After the match, the captains, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kevin Pietersen, said they knew the D/L method would come into play when fog delayed the start. Pietersen said he had requested the match officials to reduce the lunch interval but was told the ICC rules don't allow that.
Andrew Flintoff, the England allrounder, said it was "a bizarre scenario" in the end because he felt England were two wickets away from "pulling something off". "As you can imagine in the dressing room, the lads are down," Flintoff said. "If we had got two quick wickets, we would have been right back in and could have pulled something off. It wasn't to be. As you can imagine, we are a bit disappointed."
Pietersen said the team has tried to get it sorted. "[We] tried to chat with the umpires and stuff but, according to ICC ruling, the break has to be half an hour. It cannot be less than half an hour. We wanted to change the half-hour break. At the 9.15am toss, we wanted to start as early as possible because we knew we are not getting a full game in."
However, an ICC spokesperson said the rules did not apply here as only 45 minutes of play were lost - a minimum of 60 minutes have to be lost for the break to be reduced.
The stadium lights - they are not cricket-specific floodlights - were switched on only after the match was called off to facilitate the presentation ceremony. The playing conditions for the series, endorsed by both captains before it began, is believed to include a decision to not use lights in day matches.
Ravi Shastri, the former India captain, and David Lloyd, the former England coach - both present at the game as commentators - said the decision to use lights should be taken away from the rival captains.
Javagal Srinath, who was debating the issue with Shastri, Thorpe and Lloyd on NEO Cricket, the official broadcaster, said it was up to the home board (the BCCI, in this case) to offer the option of lights before the series and certify they are fit and available.
"ICC should step in and decide," Shastri said. "Why should the two captains meet [on this issue]? They [ICC] should put it in their constitution once and for all that whether you are playing in Australia or Zimbabwe or in England or in India, if the ground has lights, use it, for Christ's sake. Otherwise, it's an absolute farce. Thirty thousand people watching the contest, and you don't have play for 45 minutes because there is fog, which is ridiculous. Take it away from the players and it will make a huge difference."
Lloyd said it was clear the match should have started earlier than it did. "They could have started 40 minutes earlier," Lloyd said. "Take the lights completely away from the captains, and make it a regulation. If and when you have to use the lights, put them on, even if it is a day game, to ensure that there is a decent game of cricket."
But Srinath, who is a member of ICC's panel of match referees, said the suggestion that the lunch interval be reduced to accommodate more overs was not feasible as they players needed time to recuperate. "If you have play close to 50 overs [in the first innings], a break of 30 minutes is mandatory because players have to go back to the dressing room and recuperate," he said. "The 30 minutes to reorganise themselves is a must. In case, if the game is curtailed further, to 20-25 overs, both captains are involved along with the match referee to decide whether a minimum of 10 minutes needs to be cut from the break."