The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) approval to day/night Test and the manner in which this has been done is nothing less than shocking.
How can the game’s governing body leave it to the member boards to decide on the type and colour of the ball to be used for a form of the game as important and prestigious as Test cricket?
ICC’s principal job — more than conducting tournaments and raking in money — is to lay down rules for the game that are wafer tight and not experimental in nature.
Colour of the ball
Is the ICC allowing Test cricket to be diluted? Even if it is keen on day-night cricket, the ICC clearly needs to specify the colour of the ball.
For instance, we could have New Zealand and Pakistan playing a day-night Test with a pink ball and in another part of the world, South Africa and the West Indies could be duelling it out with a blue ball.
If this happens, it would trivialise and seriously damage Test cricket. Eventually, the ICC will be held accountable.
Is it possible for us to visualise Test cricket in daylight played in any ball other than red? Every game has its own character, its soul.
The idea behind the move is to attract more spectators to Test matches. But then, Test cricket is still widely followed on television. It quite simply is the pinnacle of the sport.
And there are other ways of ensuring that Test cricket survives and does so in a manner that underlines its glory.
Spaced out series
The ICC and the member boards should ensure that the Test series are well spaced out and have tour games before and between the Tests.
It will ensure that the visiting teams will be well prepared for the Tests; this would also result in the Test matches being better contested.
Hurried tours and brief two-Test series without side games adversely impact the longest form of the game. Every series must have a context.
If a Test series is well presented with a proper build up, the expectations of the public, consequently, are gradually raised ahead of a series. There is no reason why such a series should not attract crowds.
Every Test series should be a celebration in itself. Look how well, the Ashes, so well preserved, has thrived over the years.
Despite ICC stating that England and Australia have been in the thick of things vis a vis preparing for day/night Tests, one can be sure that the Ashes would never be played at night under artificial lights.
Test cricket and natural light are symbiotic. Taking on the morning conditions, including the movement, the natural wear and tear resulting in the formation of cracks on the pitch as the sun beats down, the players battling exhaustion and match’s natural progression over five days are some of the elements that make Test cricket so fascinating.
Even the drama associated with the fading light as one side surges to win and the other strives to save the match is a key ingredient of a Test. Indeed, these battles have thrown up so many spellbinding tales that are now a part of the cricketing folklore.
And the differing conditions of a day lend to a game that fine balances the natural elements that is so critical to a Test. This can go for a toss when one team bats or bowls in the afternoon or evening and the other does so at night.
Aesthetics and purity
Artificial lights may be par for course in one-day or twenty20 formats where the emphasis is on pleasing the spectators. Test cricket is about the game’s aesthetics and purity.
There are several areas in day\night Tests that threaten the game’s fabric. Spinners, operating with light coloured balls and under artificial lights, could suffer heavily because of the dew factor at night. They would find it hard to grip the ball.
In contrast, their counterparts from the opposition might have caused significant damage on the same surface during the phase of the day when the match was played under natural light. So, day/night cricket is not entirely fair on both the sides.
Truth to tell, the ICC has disappointed many with its decision.