In a piece published overnight, Dan McGrath waxed lyrical on the potential of the Day/Night Test, to be played later this year, in both a commercial and cricketing context.
“No matter what time of day, what colour of ball,” McGrath wrote, “the intensity of Test match cricket will shine through.”
I take a very different approach to the situation, however. I wrote, in June last year, of my thoughts on the proposal – in effect that the idea is bunk.
I’m fairly conservative when it comes to my cricket; I’d much rather immerse myself in a Test than rollock along with a T20. But I don’t believe conservatism is behind my distaste for Day/Night Test cricket, it simply stems from the lack of cricketing sense behind the decision.
McGrath wrote that little footage exists of the First Class games played with the pink ball, “upon which to judge the pink ball and the way it behaves”.
I watched extensive coverage of live streams, both in the West Indies, and in Australia, of the pink ball. I approached it with an open mind – if the game works, why not? Deep down I had my suspicions it was flawed, but I intentionally viewed the games objectively.
My view was simple: the ball behaved differently, it was harder to see, the pitches didn’t deteriorate naturally. Add into that the vagaries of Test cricket being thrown out the door – a Lord’s morning, the Fremantle Doctor, cloud cover, the challenge of playing with fading light.
Even if the ball didn’t behave unnaturally, the sanitisation of the game would remove so much of its character and interest. Even in ODI cricket we’ve seen this occur; since the start of 2012, 191 ODIs have been day games, 246 have been floodlit.
In the former category, the average runs per wicket is 30.64, whilst the RPO is 5.09.
In the latter, the same stats read 32.37 and 5.40.
This might not seem a huge difference, but bear in mind that it’s the difference between being 254, and being 270.
And if we reduce it down to just the first innings, where scoreboard pressure can lead to basket-cases and aberrations, it’s 257 plays 274.
This isn’t just a statistical surprise because of the limited time-frame either – it’s replicable whether you’re looking since 2000, since 2005, since 2010.
The simple matter is that the day/night game, to a degree, sanitises our game.
But even that shouldn’t be the predominant concern for the ICC.
Every trial has resulted in the same issues – visibility, the ball behaving differently, colour-blind cricketers unable to see the ball. The most prominent example came in a survey after the 2013/14 Sheffield Shield season, where 94% of players said the ball didn’t wear like a normal Kookaburra, and 89% said it behaved differently.
They’ve had a season since then to improve it, but the same issues remain – especially for the likes of Chris Rogers and Matthew Wade, both of whom could be in or around the Australian side for that Test.
Let’s leave the last word to Mitchell Starc, who summed it up succinctly.
“It’s definitely not a red ball. It doesn’t react anything like the red ball, in terms of swing and the hardness of it anyway. It goes soft pretty quickly, I didn’t see a huge amount of reverse swing in that game and I don’t think it swung from memory too much until the artificial light took over. It definitely reacts very, very differently to the red ball.
“The other thing as well is, personally, I couldn’t see the thing at night on the boundary. I couldn’t see the ball. So I’m not sure how the crowd are going to see it.”