Sri Lanka wash-out row shows contempt for the supporters

Disagreement over possible rescheduling of rained-off one-day international demonstrates lack of vision by game's authorities

The Abandoned one-day international here and the failure of England and the home side to agree on a format that would see the match re-scheduled today is another example of cricket failing to look after the people who pay its bills. Nobody at the R Premadasa Stadium here could disagree with the decision of the umpires and the two captains to call off yesterday's game: there were certain areas of the outfield which were muddy enough to put today's Rugby World Cup final in doubt.

The Abandoned one-day international here and the failure of England and the home side to agree on a format that would see the match re-scheduled today is another example of cricket failing to look after the people who pay its bills. Nobody at the R Premadasa Stadium here could disagree with the decision of the umpires and the two captains to call off yesterday's game: there were certain areas of the outfield which were muddy enough to put today's Rugby World Cup final in doubt.

One has to ask why international cricket has been organised in this capital during one of Sri Lanka's soggiest periods. Some people are suggesting these downpours, which are in danger of wrecking this one-day series, are unseasonal. This is rubbish. In Sri Lanka, October and November is renowned for being one of the wettest periods of the year.

The Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka must have been aware of this possibility. There can be no other reason why so little international cricket has been organised during this period in the past. In the 21 years Sri Lanka have been officially hosting international tours they have only ever played two Test matches in Colombo in October - one was a hastily rearranged match between Pakistan and Australia in 2002 and the other a rain-ruined affair in 1999 - and a solitary one-day international in November 1984.

To the BCCSL, who will no doubt make plenty of money from selling the rights of this potentially fascinating series to sponsors and television companies, and the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, who are set to see thousands of England supporters spend millions of pounds during the next five weeks, the threat of rain must have seemed like a risk worth taking.

Travellers from the UK would have had little idea they needed to pack a brolly as well as bathers when booking their holiday. The pictures in glossy brochures were not of groundstaff mopping up water or England players wallowing through a quagmire.

It is greed by the games governing bodies that has led cricket lovers to part with their hard-earned money in the belief they were about to witness a thrilling contest in a sun-soaked climate. And nobody could have blamed them for feeling they had been ripped off here yesterday.

This predicament is not helped by the International Cricket Council's Championship of Test Cricket, which states that every Test playing nation must play each other, home and away, in a two Test series during a five-year period. Because of the World Cup and the ICC Trophy, one-day cricket does not have to fulfil such obligations but as money-spinners they are always part of a tours itinerary.

Fitting all this cricket into a five year plan is proving very difficult and this is forcing governing bodies to organise tours during ill-advised times of the year. It has also helped to bring the volume of international cricket close to saturation point. Because of this many leading players now spend large parts of each year injured and several have been forced to retire from one form of the game to sustain their careers.

For this the players are blameless. However they were guilty for yesterday's match not being rearranged.

The disagreement between Sri Lanka and England is rather pathetic when one considers the effort people made to watch this match. Here, unlike in the West Indies in March 2004, the price of a ticket - £1.50 - is not the issue. It is the fact that spectators seem to be the last to be thought about when decisions are made.

If the match were to have started yesterday, England wanted the play which had taken place to be carried forward to today in the hope the match could be completed in a shortened session. However, Sri Lanka wanted a fresh game to begin today had the two teams failed to produce a result. To do this in one-day cricket it is required that 25 overs of the second innings need to be bowled. The fact that neither side was prepared to budge meant the second one-dayer was abandoned. Such indifference towards the people who enable cricket to flourish could come back to haunt the game.

* The fast bowler James Kirtley has been asked to stay on with the England squad until James Amderson has proved his fitness.

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