There have been suggestions that matches in the World Cup in India later this year should start earlier to avoid the dew becoming a significant factor in the outcome of the match.
The idea has come from Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who was reflecting after India’s first ODI win over Sri Lanka in Guwahati and suggested that the home side were wary of the problem and therefore had shown greater attacking intent when batting first.
And the idea has been endorsed by his international captain Rohit Sharma.
What is Dew?
Dew, in simple terms, are tiny drops of water that form on cool surfaces at night such as grass when the vapour in the atmosphere condenses. They make surfaces like grass wet and moisture-rich.
The impact on cricket?
Traditionally, dew did not have a big impact on cricket matches because they were played during the day. However, with the advent of technology such as floodlights, it has become increasingly popular to hold day night matches.
They attract much better viewing figures – and hence, higher advertising revenue for broadcasters – and it also helps bring more spectators into grounds. Those at work can still catch a few hours cricket in the evening.
This, though, has brought its own set of challenges with it, not the least of which is the due factor. In fact, games have even been abandoned when the moisture on the pitch has made it unsafe to carry on playing.
It can badly affect bowlers
The dew factor can have a seriously detrimental effect as far as the bowlers are concerned.
For spinners, they have troubled getting any grip on the ball, meaning it is difficult to bowl with any variety and their line and length become erratic. Their momentum and rhythm are also badly affected.
It can also make life much harder for the quick bowlers, who tend to rub the ball to get maximum swing and movement through the air. However, when dew is around, the ball becomes extremely slippery and difficult to dry.
Fielding is much more difficult
The dew also poses significant difficulties for the fielders. As the ball is so slippery and wet, it makes catching much harder than it would normally be. And it makes chasing and fielding balls tricky because the going underfoot is so uncertain.
There have been numerous instances of fielders slipping and injuring themselves because of dew on the pitch, and players will have this in mind during day night matches. It naturally makes then more cautious in the field than they would otherwise be, giving the batters an advantage.
Winning the toss is a huge advantage
The dew factor also means that it is a huge advantage to win the toss. In those circumstances, the preferred option is always to bowl first, when the conditions are the most favourable.
And that, in turn, can skew the result of a game even before a ball has been bowled.
Ways to mitigate the dew factor
There are existing ways which are used to at least mitigate the effects of the dew factors.
For grounds where it is particularly prevalent, ground staff are advised not to water the pitch for at least three days before a match. They are also advised to cut the grass as short as possible, as this reduces the quantity of moisture that forms.
During the match itself, boundary ropes can be used between innings to soak up the worst of the moisture, whilst there are a variety of non0tixic sprays available which can help dissipate the worst of it.
And then there are machines like super-soppers which are designed to trawl up and down the pitch, soaking up any moisture that may have accumulated on it.
The broadcasters will have the final say
Whatever the merit of starting matches earlier, it is the broadcasters not the players who will have the final say.
They will want to stage matches when they can attract the maximum viewers, and they also know that this is a global tournament and there will be fans in other time zones who will be affected by moving the start times of games.
With cricket TV rights for major competitions now selling for so much money, the piper calls the tune.
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