Pakistan is set to host England for the first Test in Rawalpindi, but the short days of December can seemingly affect the course of match and thus also its outcome.
It is a historic moment as England are visiting Pakistan after a 17-year gap, with the last one played in Lahore from November 29 to December 3, 2005. The hosts had won that Test by an innings and 100 runs to clinch the series 2-0.
However, terrorism kept the foreign teams away from Pakistan. Thus, UAE have been the choice as a neutral venue to host them for home series. The absence of home international cricket not only deprived the Pakistani players of the home advantage but also the people of watching international stars in stadiums.
So the Rawalpindi Test has a great significance with the England being second top nation to visit Pakistan after Australia’s visit earlier this year.
However, there is a problem: Has the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) missed a trick by selecting Rawalpindi as the one of the venues while ignoring the fact that December represents the shortest days of the year.
Weather conditions mean that you cannot start the play before 10am. So, the day beginning at 10am ends at 5pm – six hours for 90 overs for the stipulated 90 overs and one for lunch/tea breaks.
But if the 90 overs aren’t completed by 5pm then there should be another 30 minutes of play according to the ICC rules.
However, the PCB is seemingly not concerned about the sunrise and sunset timings. When we have daily sunsets around 5pm, the play would have to be called off around 4:30pm – perhaps 4:40pm at maximum.
All these calculations are based on the assumption that the skies would be cloudless. Just imagine if there are clouds which will ensure even earlier close of play.
Given the current trend of not completing the 90 overs within six hours (especially Pakistan) and sometimes even after the additional 30 minutes, one should expect less than 80 overs per day in the Rawalpindi Test.
So we are going to lose at least 50 overs during the five days of play even before the start of this match. Moreover, we may see even worse per hour over rate if spinners are not utilised.
Were there any solutions?
Like most the things in the world, this conundrum too wasn’t without a solution, the first being the day and night Test.
In this case, the weather conditions mean that play should started by 11am and then closed at 6pm which could have been extended up to 6:30pm.
Even if the play starts at 10am, the closure at 6 or 6:30 in the evening would have over two overs of using artificial light.
Thanks to the dew factor, you can’t play Test cricket after 7pm in Pakistan as it will have adverse effects on ball.
The second way out was hosting two Tests in Karachi – the first and third being the best option. The PCB could have also increased the gap between the matches to five days from three, which would have given the grounds men in Karachi a total of 15 days to prepare pitch for the third Test.
Why the PCB ignored the yearly weather-related facts and the abovementioned common-sense alternatives is beyond one’s understanding. Why it is necessary to give Rawalpindi a Test in every series is also a question.
Perhaps it is the mindset is the reason which disregards ground realities and worldwide known facts in the absence of common sense.
Or maybe we are hoping of ending the match within three or four days even with fewer overs being bowled. But it will require a bowlers’ paradise.