By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Cricket is a sport that cannot be played in the rain. When teams started playing One-Day Internationals (ODIs), there was always the question as to how the rain-affected matches are to be decided. Unlike Test matches, a draw wasn’t a result. Then came the infamous semi-final of the 1992 World Cup. It is something that haunts South African cricket to date. The Proteas needed 22 from 19 balls to secure a place in the final when the rain gods decided it was time. As time progressed the match officials kept reducing the number of balls, but not the runs. When the game resumed South Africa needed 22 runs from one ball. A mere formality and England were through to their third World Cup final. Since then South Africa have never been able to win a knock-out game at the World Cup and it continues to haunt them till today.
This game attracted a lot of criticism from the fans and media alike. Thus, in the year 1998, the ICC adopted a method devised by Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis. For rain-affected games, it would come in play while a side was chasing and a minimum of 25 overs were bowled. The number of overs required to constitute a game was subsequently reduced to 20.
The Duckworth Lewis method has been a very controversial aspect of the game since its inception. It relies on the wickets down or the resources kept by a team chasing. Thus, the lesser the number of wickets lost, the better it is for them. However, this is something that has caused quite a few controversies over the years.
My mind goes back to the ODI between India and the West Indies at Kuala Lumpur. Chasing 309 to win, West Indies were 140 for two at the end of 20 overs when it started raining. The men from the Caribbean were far ahead on the D/L scale and it was enough to secure them a victory. The interesting thing about the D/L chart for that match was that had the West Indies not lost any wickets at the end of 20 overs, the par score was 91. As one of the commentators remarked “this method doesn’t tell you that at 91 for no loss you still need to chase more than two hundred from the remaining 30 overs to win the game.” Thus, even a run rate of around 4.5 at the end of 20 overs was enough to ensure a victory. It just highlighted the importance of keeping wickets in hand with the D/L method in play.
In the famous India vs Sri Lanka game of the 1999 World Cup, had Sri Lanka been 117 for no loss at the end of 25 overs, they would have won under the D/L method had it rained. The score they were chasing was 371. Does one really think that it is possible to chase 371 in an ODI being 117 at the half way mark? At that rate had it rained during the 1979 World Cup final when Mike Brearley and Geoff Boycott were batting, England should have won and denied the West Indies a second World Cup triumph.
Thus, on most occasions the D/L method does not stress on the number of runs required or the pressure to chase the runs. If you have wickets in hand, more often than not it is enough to secure a win.
There have also been cases where the D/L method has been misread by coaches and captains. South Africa bore the brunt again during the 2003 World Cup when they misread the charts and tied the game against Sri Lanka. As a result they were knocked out of the tournament and the infamous ‘C’ tag remained with them. In early 2009, the West Indies coach John Dyson called his batsman in only to realize later that they were a run short of the target on the D/L chart.
A Kerala-based engineer V. Jayadevan devised a new method to determine the result of a rain hit game commonly known as the VJD Method. Unlike the D/L method, the VJD method takes into account the normal course of an innings and the normal score at the end of each over. Thus, the method mainly takes into account the hitting during the first 15 overs and also the slog overs. This method is used in Indian domestic cricket and it was said that it would be used during the Indian Premier League (IPL). However, during the recent game between Chennai and Kochi, the D/L method was used.
For a layman, it isn’t very easy to understand the two methods as they involve a lot of calculations. The D/L method has caused controversies and confusions in the past and maybe it is time for the VJD method to be given a go. The IPL was the best platform to give this method recognition and it may have helped its cause in getting an approval from the ICC. From my understanding, the two methods are not perfect and we need to try the VJD Method and see how it works. It may give us more fair results than the D/L Method, but we can’t be sure till it is tried at a higher level. To be fair, the domestic games in India are not given the attention the IPL gets, which is why the T20 league is the ideal platform for the VJD method to be tried.
1. Srinivas Bhogle, Is Jayadevan’s proposed method better than the D/L method?, available at: http://www.rediff.com/cricket/2001/may/21srini.htm
2. NDTV, New formula for rain hit IPL matches, available at: http://sports.ndtv.com/cricket/news/item/163148
3. V. Jayadevan, A new method for the computation of target scores in interrupted, limited over cricket matches, available at: http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/sep102002/577.pdf
4.  Srinivas Bhogle, Is Jayadevan’s proposed method better than the D/L method?, available at: http://www.rediff.com/cricket/2001/may/21srini.htm
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)
Pictures © Getty Images