Day/night tests: light at end of tunnel or oncoming train?

Sunday Times


TEST cricket has woken up and smelt the T20 revolution. But its plans to avoid being consumed by its offspring remain in dreamland.

Either, the International Cricket Council’s cricket committee mused recently, tests could be shortened to four days or be played under lights. Both ideas will need to overcome cricket’s crippling default deference to tradition if they are to escape the drawingboard.

Besides, the suits are not going to allow a day’s worth of broadcast revenue to be erased from the bottom line of every test. But they might bite the hook of lights, cameras, action in the cause of putting more bums on seats and with them a higher price for broadcast rights.

Australia seem determined to play the first day-night test in November against New Zealand, who are not best pleased at the thought. Seventeen of their 20 contracted players are opposed and the feeling in New Zealand is that taking the field at cocktail hour to play 90 overs with a pink ball would cheapen what they regard as their marquee series.

“Gimmicky,” was players’ association head Heath Mills’ assessment.

Tony Irish, the chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), said the organisation had not taken a position “but we’re following what’s happening in Australia and New Zealand”.

That said, FICA appear to be in the Kiwi corner. “One stakeholder out of 10 is driving this,” Irish said. “Unless all the countries are seeing the attraction why does test cricket need to be played this way? Cricket Australia are making the assumption that crowds will be bigger at night.”

Morne van Wyk was part of one of the several trials held to discover how the pink ball stands up to its red counterpart when North West hosted the Knights over three evenings in Potchefstroom in September, 2012.

“I struggled against the new ball and in the hour when the sun was setting but aside from that it was batting friendly and I had no problems keeping wicket,” Van Wyk said. Damn straight: he scored 125.

But, he said, eyes should be kept on the lights more than on the ball.

“Potch has some of the best floodlights, better than some test venues. Part of the criteria for playing test cricket at night should be that the lights have to be better than they are for limited overs day/night games.

“Test cricket is much more intense than one-day matches. At a place like St George’s Park, where two of the pylons look like those at my local hockey club and the banks of lights are smaller than a car, it would be unfair to the batsmen to have guys running in and bowling at 150kph.”

And another thing – when stumps are drawn as the shadows lengthen cricket’s small but noisy army of reporters knows their first drink of the evening is near. Mess with that at your peril.


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