As a teenager, I was warned about witnessing ‘pink elephants’ if I imbibed too much. These days, a budding young cricketer may well be urged to beware of pink cricket balls.
This would be a mistake, as it appears that pink ball Test cricket is the future. Australia has included two such matches in this season’s calendar and India is planning ahead with some multi-day pink ball cricket and a possible Test on the drawing board.
Despite the reluctance of some players, the administrators are pushing ahead with day-night Tests, a rare (but laudable) display of pro-active behaviour from a group more commonly associated with knee-jerk reactions.
The players’ reluctance is understandable — it’s a major change to a very traditional form of the game --- but the smart ones will adapt and eventually accept the change as part of evolution.
Not surprisingly, most of the concern over the pink ball is coming from the batsmen. Test averages loom large in the mind of many batsmen and it’s not a trait that does the game any good. Entertainment vital A Test is not a statistical exercise --- it’s a contest to be won. Part of clinching victory involves entertaining the public and this is becoming an even more important factor in a highly competitive market.
Nearly forty years on, the players who took part in World Series Cricket are proud of their part in the evolution of the game. I have no doubt that current players who contribute to the popularisation of day-night Tests will feel similarly chuffed when they reflect on life while sitting in a rocking chair.
Day-night Tests make sense. The time frame is acceptable for the bulk of the population and it’s a more viable proposition for television. Because it largely avoids the extreme heat, it helps limit skin damage. Day-night Tests could also lead to seven-hour playing days, with a reduction in the duration of matches.
Despite the misgivings of captains Steve Smith and Alastair Cook, it also makes sense for the Ashes. While crowds have been good for the Ashes, that can’t be taken for granted and cricket should always be alert to attracting new and younger spectators.
While there are many pluses for day-night Tests, they’re dependent on the contest remaining fair. The jury is still out among players on the viability of the pink ball, but the administrators have been good listeners. They recently accepted adjustments to the much-maligned seam colouring, furthering the development of the pink ball, which dates back a decade.
One unexpected benefit from the highly successful first Test under lights at the Adelaide Oval was a result of efforts to preserve the condition of the ball. More grass was left on the pitch and, if this eventually leads to surfaces being prepared with a greener tinge in Australia, then it’ll be a big improvement on some of the bland surfaces that have made a mockery of the term ‘contest’.
Cricket is not a statistical exercise devised for the benefit of batsmen. It should be a contest between bat and ball and the more even this battle, the better the end product.