Cricket

England, learn from Bengaluru how to play cricket after heavy rain

When the league match against New Zealand in Nottingham was abandoned due to rain on 13 June, Virat Kohli should have asked the ICC and the English Cricket Board to visit the M Chinnaswamy cricket stadium, home to his IPL franchisee, Royal Challengers Bengaluru. And on Tuesday when Manchester was swamped by rain during the semi-final, Kohli should have renewed his invite. 

This is because Chinnaswamy stadium is the only cricket stadium in the world today where a match can take place within five minutes of a heavy shower stopping. It would have shown the ECB how short-sighted and anti-cricket fan they have been through the conduct of the World Cup where four league matches were lost due to rain.

Two years ago, Great Sports Infra that is in the business of adapting sports technology to upgrade sporting infrastructure, worked on the Chinnaswamy stadium. It brought in American technology – the state-of-the-art SubAir system – which operates on vacuum and pressure mode. The vacuum mode removes the moisture and then air is pressurised through the entire ground to make it dry. 

Since the work involved renovating the outfield, making it compatible with the technology by using perforated drain network, it took four months to finish the task. So Chinnaswamy stadium’s base that was laid 40 years ago was removed and a pipeline system almost 4.5 km in length was laid beneath the ground. 

As part of the SubAir system that was installed, moisture and salinity sensors were embedded in the outfield that ensure that even when the ground is not attended to, say at night, the first burst of rain will send a message to the machine that will immediately begin the suction process. 
The grounds in England in contrast, depend entirely on their sand-based outfield and gravity to get dry to enable play. 

“But they are no match for the 200 horsepower suction system installed in Bengaluru. Here 10000 litres of water is sucked in per minute without any manual intervention, 36 times faster than gravity ensuring that the turnaround time is very short,” says Anil Kumar, Managing Director, Great Sports Infra.

If embracing the technology involves renovation of the outfield as well (which is likely to be the case at most old Indian cricket stadia), it will cost about Rs 8 crore. But the cost comes down to about Rs 4.5 crore if only the machine has to be plugged in. 

The BCCI had invited Great Sports Infra to its Curators conference and has been pushing for more cricket stadia in the country to embrace the technology given that the feedback from Karnataka State Cricket Association has been positive. The association claims that loss to the association, broadcasters, sponsors and fans if a match is washed out is close to Rs 80 crore, making this one-time investment worthwhile. 

The company had made a presentation to the ICC and ECB as well but Anil Kumar says England continues to trust its drainage system. With four matches washed out in the league stage and the first semi-final hanging in the balance, ECB now will need to deal with a trust deficit from cricket fans, broadcasters and sponsors. 

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