Sydney - Venerable Test cricket, 138 years
after its origins, is about to get a glitzy makeover in this week's first-ever
day-night Test match between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide.
While playing with a pink ball under lights
is an anathema to staunch cricket traditionalists, administrators are pointing
to dwindling crowds and out-dated scheduling as they attempt to move the Test format
into the 21st century.
Emboldened by the success of Twenty20 with
its frenetic pace and slick innovation, Cricket Australia is trialling
day-night Test cricket from Friday in a bid to attract more fans and interest.
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland is
a leading proponent and believes it should be viewed as part of the evolution
of the five-day game.
"We know and understand we need to
shift entertainment into periods of the day that are more appealing,"
"I love all cricket but my preferred
format of the game is Test cricket. And I honestly believe if we do nothing
then we are at risk of loving Test cricket to death."
Tickets for the day-night Test match, where
play will be from 2:00-9:00 pm local time, are selling briskly, with Cricket
Australia comparing the interest to a high-demand Ashes series against England.
The contrast with Australia's first two
daytime Tests of the current series against New Zealand could not be starker -
with low turnouts and funereal ground atmospheres in Brisbane and Perth - yet
again bringing into focus Test cricket's ability to survive in a modern
While the day-night concept has been hailed
as "thoroughly enlightened" by the new international cricket chief,
legendary Pakistan batsman Zaheer Abbas, it has its opponents.
Some players have been critical of the
revolutionary pink ball -- used because the traditional red ball is difficult
to see in the dark - complaining it deteriorates more quickly.
Kookaburra, which manufactures the balls
used in Australia, say the difference between the red and pink versions is
primarily a very fine film of extra paint used on the pink ball to help keep
Kookaburra said the pink ball had gone
through rigorous testing.
"I don't think any Test ball has gone
through the level of testing and development that the pink ball has got and the
number of trials and feedback," Kookaburra managing director Brett Elliott
Despite many seeing a need to reinvigorate
Test cricket, the Federation of International Cricketers Association cautions
against rushing into embracing day-night Tests as part of the sport's future.
"Test cricket is seen as the pinnacle
format by the majority of international players. The fact that players value it
so highly is critical to its survival as a format around the world," FICA
chief Tony Irish said.
"One really shouldn't mess too much
But pink-ball Test matches could just be
the start of a cricket revolution, if some visionaries have their way.
Former Australian captain Mark Taylor, now
a current Cricket Australia board member and television commentator, is
advocating the introduction of four-day, 100-over Tests and a more clearly
Taylor wants all Test matches to begin on
Thursdays, allowing games to build to a Sunday evening climax.
"You've got to look at the game as a
whole. Where is cricket going? The younger generation generally want more
instant gratification and I think over five days to keep them interested in the
game is not so easy," he said.
"People are more about who is the best
in the world at the moment. They like watching World Cup finals (so) if you're
always working towards who is the best Test team in the world, that can only
help the game."