I recently saw Ricky Ponting had spoken out about the new day/night test trial coming up.
He pointed to the fact that the five day version of the game is steeped in tradition.
I’m am a purist. I see and understand everything he means by this statement, but for me the day/night test trial is a fight back against the T20 invasion that is severely hampering the Test matches as a spectacle.
Obviously, there are plenty of examples of cricket evolving over the years. The reduction from eight to six ball overs, pyjama cricket then T20 are some of the big ones. All of these were met with some initial criticism before becoming a part of everyday life.
The sticking point here is how the pink ball stands up and also how much benefit one team gets for bowling at night with it. Then the by-product of such a change, the record books.
Personally, I have more of a problem with the recent formation of the ‘Big 3’ and all the power they have syphoned or secured for themselves. It is still shameful to think that the CA Board didn’t just agree to the idea but was actually behind the wheel of such a blatant hijacking. I hope that Ponting has said his piece about that, because no sane member of the cricket fraternity could agree with the plans masterminded by India, Australia and England on this.
Back to the day/night proposal.
Ponting’s view is coming from a position of privilege. His career was built on playing for and leading one of the few countries that enjoy “sold out” signs hanging off the front of stadiums for tests, summer after summer. As a powerhouse and a mostly cricket-wise entertaining country, Australia’s crowds are generally close to their largest when we go on the road. So, I believe we are actually a little sheltered from the real problem.
Think about how much the current Pakistan situation would benefit from having half of everyday moved to a night session. Currently they play at state of the art facilities in the UAE that are basically empty. That’s 60,000 seat stadiums with less than 2000 seats filled. Due to the conditions of working visas and laws in the UAE, most workers only get Fridays off. So really, the place is only used for one day of each test. If a night session was available, people would flock down after work and the stadium would come alive.
It’s such a shame for a proud cricket nation like Pakistan not to be able to use a vocal Karachi crowd to their advantage. Insead, they get reduced to an empty stadium, treated like they were a part of the Italian Serie A match fixing scandal, and forced to shut their doors to the public.
The great Sir Garfield Sobers has also recently had a few words to say about the new day/night concept. He would be in the same category as Ponting with his purist views. However, he has watched the demise of West Indies Cricket and puts the blame squarely at the feet of T20 and the big money offered to players. He feels that a lot of players just mark time till the IPL and no longer share the same view of a ‘West Indies first policy that he had held in his playing days. Sobers goes on to say that with the new day/night format, there is a chance that the game will be invigorated and bring new players back to the game. Even current test players may find a new love for the format feeding off the fresh start.
I find it hard to understand that not so long ago South Africa (consistently the number one test team for some time now) weren’t able to sell out the first three days of test matches against Australia who were battling for the top test ranking.
Again, that’s from an Australian perspective, where cricket is the number one sport. The thought of South Africa coming out here and being greeted with half full stadiums is foreign to me. I hope that doesn’t become a reality any time soon.
Outside of Australia, England and India, there is a definitive need to capitalize on a great product and make sure we are on the front foot to keep market share. Let T20 knock down walls for expanding the game in new places, but test cricket must find ways of keeping itself as the number one form of the game.
I think the day/night concept is huge step towards re-energizing the game. I hope we see a cracking trial between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide this summer, and the crowd gets right behind it. My only concern is that the Aussies don’t really like the swinging ball and the early reports from shield cricket say that once the sun goes down the pink ball likes to move. Southee and co will be licking their lips…. Especially if the third test is a decider.