Cricket is on the verge of ushering in a forced changed to the way its classic format — the Test match — is played. Alarmed by the dip in attendance for the five-day format and a fear that the 50-over and 20-over games will eventually kill Test cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has given a go-ahead, allowing members to play day-night matches in bilateral series if both sides agree to it. The decision follows a lot of discussion and some trial games to particularly test what colour of ball was most suited to playing under floodlights. The ball is still a work in progress, and some international players are still not sure whether the conditions would remain uniform through the duration of a day’s play.
However, the ICC’s announcement comes after the issue was not opposed by any of the boards when it went before the world governing body’s executive board. Day-night Tests are a desperate effort to bring in more spectators, pull in more television viewers and attract more attention even within a country. Cricket Australia has given a positive response while the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not sounded too enthusiastic but these are very early days. However, for the purists and freshly acquired fans of Test cricket, it would take away the very essence of ‘test’ in the contests. For instance, the swing which bowling in the morning will help a fast bowler get may not be pronounced if play starts in the afternoon. And it is debatable whether the natural wear and tear of a pitch under the baking sun — especially in the sub-continent — would be the same when much of the match is played after sunset.
But there is certain inevitability to the introduction of day-night Tests, especially with Twenty20 cricket having shown the way by drawing huge crowds thanks to matches being played under the lights. Day-night Tests would thus be just a normal progression for those who believe sport must constantly re-invent itself to march ahead and keep pace with the times it exists in.