Decoded: Understanding the uniqueness of dew in cricket

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29 Oct 2021 | 10:39 PM
authorcricket.com staff

Decoded: Understanding the uniqueness of dew in cricket

Why do captains favour chasing in the sub-continent? Often than not, dew is a big reason behind it

Day-night cricket has seen a trend where the toss has become a crucial factor where captains lean towards chasing rather than setting up a target. The biggest reason behind this is the ‘Dew’ factor. Under the lights, the dew is a boon for batters, frustrating for the fielders, and infuriating for the bowlers. It's a lot of hard work for the ground staff who pull out all stops to remove these tiny specks of water off the grass to make the conditions easier for the players. But what is this one natural phenomenon which affects the game of cricket?

What is dew?

If we not trying to be geologists here, but dew, in simple words, is water that forms naturally on the ground and sticks to it due to condensation. Among cricketing nations, the hot and humid conditions in the sub-continent often see dew form in the latter stages of the evening which makes it challenging for the bowling side.

Humidity plays a big part in the forming dew as the air condenses when the temperatures fall during the evening. Even in places where dry heat soars during the day followed by cool evenings, dew is almost an inevitability.

It is not a big problem in the Northern Hemisphere where mercury levels don’t drop drastically. Also, the presence of long evenings, where the sun sets around 8-9 PM makes it easier for the chasing team.

Why is it so tough for the bowlers?

Former England off-spinner Graeme Swann remembers what it feels like bowling with dew.

“It’s horrible. The ball gets dripping wet when it rolls on the outfield and it's very hard to grip,” he tells cricket.com.

It also adds an extra twist to the sub-continental pitches which are usually spin conducive as the ball skids off the surface. So the team is dealing with a lack of friction on the pitch and around it.

It is only when the bowler cannot send in a ripper which jags off the surface. Even when a spinner can grip the ball and add revs to it, the greasy surface prevents the ball from spinning, which makes it easier for the batters who don’t have to worry about the pitch holding up.

For the seam bowlers, say someone like Mustafizur Rahman who bowls a lot of cutters and slower balls, dew makes it easier for the batters to read.

How to counter dew?

The first level of defense against dew for bowlers is to tuck in a rag or a towel to wipe the water droplets off the ball. However, it can only do so much. The white part of the ball can be easily wiped but the nylon knots of the seam is not that easily dried off.

According to Swann, it takes a couple of minutes to get the entire ball bone dry, which means each over might extend up to ten minutes.

“For a spinner like me who grips the seam very tight to give it a lot of revs, it very hard. But there are ways around it. Instead of rolling your finger along the seam, you push the side of your finger across the seam. You can also bowl more arm balls,” he says.

Another way to bowl is not dependent on the friction that allows spinners to turn the ball. Anyone who rolls their fingers or flicks the ball off their hand is immune to this inconvenience.

A bit of preparation and watching the sky helps too.

“Muttiah Muralitharan always used to look at the clouds in the morning and would say there will no dew if there are clouds and if there no clouds then there will be a lot of dew,” Swann remembers.

The joys of playing with dew

Despite the challenges it brings, fielding in the presence of dew has a poetic charm to some.

“I love fielding in presence of dew because the ball traces beautiful lines while sliding through the grass. You can actually understand where the ball is coming from five metres out,” Swann says.

Not many sports have a bearing on weather, but in cricket, it is much more than just a contest between bat and the ball. Understanding wind, light, pitch, rain, and heat are big part of it. Dew is just another factor that makes cricket a unique sport. 

“It’s not a massive problem, to be honest. There were some games it made things very difficult, but a lot of times I was in the team batting second and we have won games because of it. So, it’s dew is something which makes cricket a very unique game,” Swann says.

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