Cricket Australia unveiled plans on Wednesday for day-night Tests against South Africa and Pakistan but admitted player concerns about the experimental format meant the Proteas’ fixture was not locked in.
The day-night Tests using a pink ball are a central part of Australia’s home international schedule for 2016-17, which also features limited over matches against three nations.
Administrators regard the inaugural day-night Test against New Zealand in Adelaide last season as an outstanding success, attracting 123,000 spectators and an average television audience of two million.
However, players from both sides complained about the pink ball’s movement and durability, as well as the difficulty batsmen faced seeing it under lights.
CA chief executive James Sutherland said Pakistan had agreed to play a day-night Test in Brisbane but South Africa’s players had refused to commit to a similar fixture in Adelaide.
“Understandably, there is some concern from the South African players,” Sutherland said, underlining CA’s argument that innovation was needed to reinvigorate Test cricket.
“Day-night Test cricket is all about the fans and a day-night match in Adelaide will be a bigger Test match crowd than the South African players will have ever experienced.”
South African players association chief Tony Irish said this week that the Proteas, unlike their Australian rivals, had no experience with the pink ball and did not want to be disadvantaged in the Test series.
“The reluctance to play is a sign of how much importance the South African players place on the series against Australia,” he told The Australian newspaper.
South Africa, currently rated third in the world, will be aiming to replace Australia as the top-ranked Test team in the series, with the planned day-nighter in Adelaide looming as a potential decider.
The CA schedule also breaks with tradition by stripping Brisbane’s Gabba of its customary hosting rights to the first Test of the season.
Instead, the first Test against South Africa will be held in Perth from November 3-7, with Brisbane hosting the opening Test against Pakistan from December 15-19.
Sutherland said holding a day-night Test in Brisbane during the school holiday would draw big crowds, while opening the Test season against the Proteas in Perth would attract the city’s large South African community.
In addition to the three-Test series against South Africa and Pakistan, the schedule also includes five one-dayers against Pakistan, three against New Zealand and three Twenty20 internationals against Sri Lanka.