World Cup Scheduling Mess Paints Organisers in Poor Light

June 27: After a prolonged wait and periods of suspense, the schedule for the tournament is released.

July 27: It is announced that the dates of a few matches may change because one key fixture coincides with the first day of a festival.

August 2: The change is confirmed. This match is brought forward by a day. As a result, the dates of some other matches are also revised.

August 5: Police officials of a city staging a game on November 12 say they may not be able to make security arrangements because it clashes with another festival.

No neighbourhood tennis-ball tournament this. We are talking about the men’s 50-over World Cup, to be held in India from October 5 to November 19. After an unprecedented delay in releasing the dates — causing inconvenience to a whole lot of people, and burning deep holes in fans’ pockets — things are still not certain, with 60 days to go.

For the 2019 50-over World Cup held in England from May 30, dates were out on April 26, 2018. For the T20 World Cup to be played in West Indies and the US next June, the schedule was announced almost 11 months before the first ball would be bowled.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) and the host nations — whose joint responsibility it should be to draw up and release the schedule — were not being overly generous in getting the dates out well in advance in the case of the 2019 and 2024 events. They realised that for travelling fans, media and their own logistical purposes, it is important to make the itinerary final as early as possible. Common sense says this helps in making travel and hotel bookings easier and cheaper.

For some reason or the lack of it, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been lackadaisical about finalising the dates. It’s difficult to remember if such a situation was ever witnessed when India hosted World Cup games in the past. The ICC cannot be given a clean chit either, being the world governing body of the game.

Also Read: Fans desperate for a final schedule

That the first day of Navratri this year is October 15 — the day India were supposed to face Pakistan in Ahmedabad — should have been noticed by officials in India. Similarly, November 12, or the day of Kali Puja, was chosen for the England-Pakistan match in Kolkata. It’s a major festival which brings life in the city to a standstill, making it difficult for the police to deploy personnel at Eden Gardens.

Snehashish Ganguly, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president, told RevSportz they were yet to formally hear from the police. If need be, they would request the chief minister to intervene. But the reality is that the Indo-Pak contest had to be brought forward by a day and now, a date change is not ruled out for the November 12 fixture either.

If that happens, it is likely to have a cascading effect. Pakistan’s match against Sri Lanka slated for October 12 has already been rescheduled to give them time to recover before the India match on October 14. Readjusting other games may cause more changes. In short, with just over two months to go for cricket’s showpiece event, there is no certainty over who plays when in the case of certain matches.

If the dates of Navratri and Kali Puja were overlooked, the BCCI deserves flak for being unprofessional. Even inadvertently, leaving thousands of people in a fix over bookings, making logistical planning an eleventh-hour activity, and leaving fans with no choice but to spend extra is not expected of the most powerful cricket board in the world.

Hosting a marquee event successfully means getting every minute detail in place and satisfying all the stakeholders. The definition of success is not restricted to the field of play. Running matters smoothly off it is a bigger challenge because of the number of teams involved, the responsibility of creating working environments for professionals from different walks of life, and ensuring a hassle-free experience. Before a ball has been bowled in World Cup 2023, the organisers have been caught delivering no-balls.

Also Read: ICC, BCCI happy with Eden Gardens

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