If Cricket Australia has its way, Australia will play two day-night Tests over their summer season later in the year. One will be against Pakistan, the other against South Africa. However, there is a slight hitch.
The South African players have expressed their reluctance at the idea with the South African Players' Association chief Tony Irish telling the Australian newspaper they have some concerns (h/t Sky Sports). The concerns are mostly about the lack of preparation, with none of the South Africans ever having played under lights with a pink ball, which is a fair point
The fact that the Test holds the potential to be a series decider is also a factor. If they have not prepared properly the players feel they could be at a disadvantage. This, again, is a fair point.
The pink ball has also come under scrutiny. During the first ever day-night Test, played between Australia and New Zealand last year, both sides raised concerns about the ball’s visibility. The ball also seemed to misbehave more under lights, but in an era where the fact that cricket seems to favour batsmen is constantly bemoaned, this can’t be such a bad thing.
While South Africa will quibble over their readiness for such a fixture, with perfectly legitimate reason, it’s unlikely that day-night Tests are going to go away any time soon.
The fixture between Australia and New Zealand drew a record attendance for a city match that was not an Ashes fixture. In an era where getting people into grounds to watch Tests, this is perhaps the biggest thing it has going in its favour.
Traditionalists recoil at the notion of radicalising Test cricket to such an extent. In the modern era, though, it is necessary.
Test cricket is under threat from all corners. Most notably, perhaps, from the mushrooming Twenty20 leagues across the world that offer players a pretty penny. In the current economic climate, it is very difficult for the majority of cricket boards to compete with the money on offer from those leagues, but day-night Tests could help change that.
More bums on seats will mean more revenue, as will more eyeballs on television. Casual viewers who spend most of their days at work can easily tune into cricket on TV after a long day giving advertisers more chance of catching their eye.
People at opposite ends of the world can also tune in far more easily and watch more cricket instead of having to drag themselves out of bed at some ungodly hour when sides play in Australia and New Zealand. Office workers can pop into a venue for a few hours after work to unwind and watch Test cricket in a slightly enhanced format.
Of course, day-night Tests are by no means a blanket solution when it comes to fighting against the wealthy T20 leagues, but they are a start. Administrators who see the monetary benefit of the format will be very difficult to convince that it’s not worth their while, no matter how iffy players might feel about it.
Day-night Tests are not going to go away soon, and while, to date, Australia are the only side to have embraced them, it surely won’t be too long until other teams cotton on.
All we can hope for is that the financial benefit that these matches hold will be used for the good of the game instead of systematically destroying an age-old tradition.
All information has been obtained firsthand, unless otherwise stated.