Why does rain stop cricket?

By G.S. Rogers

Sportspeople are usually thought of as tough. Rugged. Resilient types, up for a challenge. So why, in cricket, does everyone run to the pavilion when the skies darken and the rain starts to splash? Why can’t the players hang around and push through – like footy players, soccer players, rugby players, hockey players, synchronized swimmers?

We did a poll among a few people (who may or may not know a bit about cricket) in the immediate vicinity and asked them why they thought rain brings a stop to cricket games. Here are their answers. 

  1. Their whites could get muddy and dirty
  2. Their jumpers would get wet and too heavy
  3. The batsmen won’t be able to see the ball
  4. The fielders won’t be able to see the ball
  5. The umpires won’t be able to see the ball
  6. The bowler will keep dropping the ball
  7. The grass will get too slippy and someone could break a leg
  8. The bowlers will slide and fall over on the pitch
  9. The pitch could get muddy
  10. The crowd will go home

So… the real answer is kind of along all these lines, less any worries about the whites not being white or woolen jumpers getting soaked. The crowd will generally come prepared.

Sensible outwear for the wet weather days. Picture: Getty Images 

Sensible outwear for the wet weather days. Picture: Getty Images 

Visibility – yep. That’s definitely an issue. Rain and bad light can both stop a game, and once upon a time, often did – the big stadium lights of today solve that issue. If rain or a lack of light obscures the players’ ability to see the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball, then the game’s not really worth all the ironing that went into those whites.*

Safety first, peeps! Of course that’s the paramount consideration. Wet grass threatens all sorts of peril. Sure it makes for a good dive and slide – and who doesn’t like seeing that on telly? – but no one wants the skid that ends with a crunch.

Whether your team is at the crease (batting) or on the field (and bowling) rain is unquestionably a disadvantage. For the batsmen, the pitch getting soggy will mean the ball will get damp, and not bounce as high, and likely skid, all of which makes it hard to hit. If you do manage to strike it, then it’s a slippery run to the other end and one that could see you flying.

Members from the Australian team stop play due to rain. Picture: Getty

Members from the Australian team stop play due to rain. Picture: Getty

For the bowlers, equally, the run up is precarious, and once the ball and pitch gets damp you won’t be able to achieve the bounce you wanted or the swing you had counted on. If the batsman does manage to hit your ball, you’ve got to hope the fielders can see it to catch or don’t come a-cropper trying to stop it reaching the boundary.

All in all, once the heavens open, it’s a go for getting the covers on as fast as possible and the players off the ground. What will happen at that point varies greatly. Generally speaking, the crowd – who have paid good money to come to the game – will stick around hoping the rain lifts and play resumes. Players themselves may be antsy at having to leave the field and eager to get back out there.

The below video shows the hover cover being rolled into action. 

Rain delays are commonly met with boos by the crowd and vexation from the players. But meteorologists will be consulted and the tv networks will cut to ads while the powers that be decide. If the rain is heavy and seems likely to stick around, play will be abandoned and the crowd will slope off… perhaps to find a place for their sorrows to be drowned.

*Most of the whites today are wash n wear and need no ironing. It’s only this writer amusing herself at the idea of players frantically trying to steam out creases moments before the bell goes to start play.