The T20 World Cup looks destined to be tarnished by weather, with rain predicted to interrupt blockbuster matches during the Super 12 stage of the tournament.
The sold-out clash between sub-continent rivals India and Pakistan will take place at the MCG on Sunday evening, but the weather forecast for Melbourne looks pretty grim.
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The Bureau of Meteorology is currently estimating an 80 per cent chance of showers in the Victorian capital that day, most likely during the evening.
Approximately 100,000 tickets have been purchased for the highly-anticipated fixture, and hundreds of millions are expected to watch the 20-over contest worldwide.
The corresponding match during the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia received 229 million viewers globally, while this year’s Asia Cup clash pulled 225 million sets of eyes.
T20 World Cup spectators are entitled to a full refund if less than 10 overs are played, meaning the tournament organisers would potentially need to fork out $7 million in restitution, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Although no reserve days have been organised for group stage matches in the T20 World Cup, the semi-finals and final have back-up slots if required.
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Meteorology confirmed that climate driver La Nina had once again returned for the 2022/23 summer, and its effects are already noticeable throughout the country.
Flood-affected areas in New South Wales and Victoria could unfortunately be hit with more than 100mm of rain over the next four days.
Meanwhile, warm-up fixtures between India and New Zealand at the Gabba and Bangladesh and South Africa at Allan Border Field were abandoned due to heavy rain.
“Typically with La Nina, it leads to extra cloud cover and extra rainfall through eastern, northern and central Australia,” Sky News meteorologist Rob Sharpe told news.com.au last year.
“It also leads to generally near or below average temperatures in those regions.
“Particularly for the matches in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, there’s a higher chance than usual of rainfall, so a higher chance of games potentially being washed out.”
Andrew Watkins, the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of long-range forecasting, warned that La Nina would strike the east coast earlier than usual this summer, much to the frustration of T20 World Cup organisers.
“At the moment, this La Nina isn‘t looking particularly strong and it’s looking like it will peak probably fairly early in the summer or late in the spring,” Watkins told ABC last month.
“Which is a little bit unusual, a little bit different to the La Ninas that we‘ve been seeing in recent years.”
The rare climate phenomenon has occurred in Australia 16 times over the past 122 years.
Australia’s T20 World Cup opener against New Zealand at the SCG on Saturday evening, another sellout, is also under threat. The Bureau of Meteorology is currently estimating a 90 per cent chance of rain that day, most likely during the afternoon and evening, with between 10 to 25mm of rain forecast and a chance of thunderstorms.
Speaking to reporters at the SCG on Thursday afternoon, Australian coach Andrew McDonald said the team could experiment with its batting order if the match was reduced due to weather.
“We’ve been around cricket long enough to know that we’re going to have to plan for situations of weather,” he said.
“We had a hypothetical discussion today around that; with a shortened game, would that change our team? So it’s always on your mind.
“You plan for pretty much every scenario, most of these players have played shortened games.
“The only question would be if it was to intervene, what does it look like in terms of our team structure? Does that change?
“Hopefully fingers crossed we don’t get any weather and the crowds flocks in.”
The effects of La Nina could assist Australia’s pace bowlers over the next couple of weeks because cloud cover provides an ideal environment for swing bowling. Turbulence caused by hot air under sunlight is reduced and seamers have greater control of the Kookaburra’s movement.
But Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa, the team’s highest wicket-taker during last year’s triumphant T20 World Cup campaign in the United Arab Emirates, believes the damp conditions could also enhance pitches for the tweakers.
“If there is some weather around and some juice in the wicket, it’ll help the spinners,” he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday afternoon.
“As a spinner if there is a bit of juice in the deck, you almost hope for that.
“It’s all about preparation. I feel like every time we’re at the SCG we’re looking for rain to come because it always seems that way.
“I know there might be some rain around and might even be some dew if we bowl second. The way I train, I always have that in the back of mind.
“I usually have a bucket or something I’ll drop the ball into to prepare for that. So it’s all about getting ready for it.”
Australia will face trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand at the SCG on Saturday evening, with the first ball scheduled for 6pm AEDT.
History isn’t on Australia’s side heading into the tournament – no men’s team has successfully defended an ODI or T20 World Cup at home, while no men’s team has ever won the T20 World Cup as the host nation.