Rahul Dravid is not the kind of a cricketer to indulge in talk without rationale. His education, cricketing experience and reading habits are evident when he discusses cricket or cricket administration. But at Canberra his suggestion of having day-night Test matches was made without proper homework. Theoretically everything looks possible. In practice certain things don't work.
That the stadiums have to be occupied in a spectator friendly game is an obvious fact. It's a dangerous trend to see Eden Gardens half filled and in a place like Mumbai, where every third person is a self-proclaimed cricket expert, hardly anyone turned up at the Wankhede Stadium for the Test match recently. Playing and discussing cricket is a pastime of Mumbaikars but they too are fed up with Test match cricket.
Is it the poor quality of pitches or the poor opposition, one doesn't know but it's only in the sub-continent that crowds stay away from Test cricket. Elsewhere Test matches are a great crowd puller. The tickets for Ashes are sold out well in advance.
Is day-night Test cricket the ideal solution? More than a decade ago the BCCI decided to have a five day-night Ranji Trophy final at Gwalior as an experiment. There were technical problems in every session which eventually forced the BCCI to abandon the idea.
The game started at 2-30 p.m. in perfect conditions. The pitch was placid and batsmen took advantage of it. At 6 in the evening when lights were on, playing conditions suddenly changed. Add to it there was dew on the ground. The ball began to wobble and bowlers had to bowl holding the ball with cross seam to control the swing.
The BCCI used a white Kookaburra ball which is not known to swing like the SG Test ball but here the ball was swinging prodigiously. Bowlers said the seam of the ball being flat, it created problem while gripping the ball in the second half of play.
The dew on the pitch caused the ball to skid. Though there was a change of ball after 40 overs (optional) and compulsory after 50 overs, the teams weren't comfortable. When the spinners were bowling well around the 50 over mark, the new ball would stop them from bowling.
Strategically it just didn't make sense. One remembers at least on five to six occasions batsmen were let off the hook when the ball was changed after 50 overs. Will this not be a big factor in a Test match when a batsman is struggling against spinners and new ball helps him escape from the tight situation?
The pink ball which is being experimented for the longer version is not only hard but it swings more than the Kookaburra ball. The success of a Test match shouldn't be subject to factors like misbehaving of balls and pitches. Moreover loss of time will be another factor.
Unless the authorities experiment day-night for longer duration matches, solutions can't be reached because except for England all the matches are played in the winter. The dew factor will vary from venue to venue. Pink balls haven't been used successfully in the longer version of the game.
Dravid also lamented the meaningless numbers of ODIs but surprisingly remained silent on the T20 tournaments perhaps because he is still part of the IPL.
If Test cricket has to survive, play less number of ODIs and T20. We also have to have the same match fee structure for a Test match player that IPL offers. Only then things will change.