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The next step to securing Test cricket’s relevance

Alec Swann Columnist

By Alec Swann, Alec Swann is a Roar Expert

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    It may not be the sun-drenched climes of Adelaide, Dubai or Brisbane but this week the infant that is day-night Test cricket arrives in Birmingham.

    If the weather of the last couple of weeks is anything to go by, the need for sunscreen at Edgbaston on Thursday afternoon will be usurped by the sensible option of a flask of hot tea, but this is the northern hemisphere after all and that is just how it is.

    England may be late to show up to this particular party but with Adelaide due to host its third pink-ball extravaganza, and the first Ashes contest in the format, later this year, it is a welcome arrival nevertheless.

    And if the concept of day-night Test cricket is to gain additional and worthwhile traction then the more the merrier, and that means England embracing it with open arms.

    A full round of County Championship fixtures not so long ago indicated a willingness of the governing body to pay it more than just lip service and, fingers well and truly crossed, the fare on show this week will justify the break from tradition.

    There have been rumblings already about the quality of the ball and how it will behave – that’s nothing new, as every fixture with a pink ball has seen the same – but from what I have seen the cricket itself hasn’t been that far removed from what is usually expected in the longer form.

    Those expecting it to be a carbon copy of what is played with a red ball are always going to be disappointed but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The white ball offers little in the way of swing for example but a red Kookaburra hardly goes around corners for lengthy periods of time. But I digress.

    It has to be remembered that the sample size for making decisions is pitifully small and until a greater study is made, maybe judgement should be reserved.

    What it really comes down to this: does Test cricket need day-night matches?

    Enough has been written and said about the longest form of the game being under considerable threat from the brash upstart that is Twenty20 that there is only one answer.

    Matthew Wade keeping

    (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

    To survive, Test cricket has to adapt and this is as good a route as any to take.

    Albert Einstein is alleged to have said the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’.

    Now whether or not the German physicist actually uttered these words is by the by, and you may think Test cricket is absolutely fine as it is but it isn’t being overly negative to suggest the lure of tradition is slowly being eased to one side. And complaining about the demise while not accepting change is a necessity will get you nowhere.

    There is no need to plough headfirst into drastic change for its own sake but showing what can be achieved without upsetting the apple cart too much is the best way to go.

    Yes, in the debut of the format a couple of years ago, the novelty aspect of Australia’s clash with New Zealand was clear for all to see but the cricket was excellent and, crucially, it led to a repeat.

    That, for all intents and purposes, equals success and the sooner more countries give it a go the better.

    The dynamic of the game itself is different – talk of batting twilight being one such alien factor – but that doesn’t have to be a negative. Accept the fact cricket with a pink ball requires a marginally different approach, both for those who deliver it and those who face it, and take it for what it is.

    It would be a sad day for the sport if Test matches were allowed to wilt away without any action being taken and England’s series opener against West Indies is the latest step towards providing a relevant future.

    As has been the case so far, let’s hope this next and latest instalment is worthwhile.

    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • Roar Pro

      August 16th 2017 @ 8:47am
      Andrew Young said | August 16th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      It’s a shame that we have reached the point where test cricket needs “saving” per se. But that being the case, D/N tests seem a good way to do so.

    • August 16th 2017 @ 10:17am
      Chui said | August 16th 2017 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      Having been to the D/N Adelaide Tests, I have to say the cricket and the atmosphere was impressive. The obvious challenge to batting at dusk certainly added to the game.

      Whilst I would rather it stayed the same as it always was, I accept that everyone doesn’t think this way.

      If this is the way forward to preserve the five day game, so be it.

    • August 16th 2017 @ 10:54am
      John said | August 16th 2017 @ 10:54am | ! Report

      I think other means should have been explored for test match cricket without resorting to “radical surgery” first off.

      The problem for younger audiences I think is the “slowness” of the game, and it frustrates me also. The

      administrators need to make changes to speed up the pace of the game, more overs per day, four day tests, limits

      on run up lengths, cut out the endless recirculating of the ball back through the wicket keeper and ball polishers back

      to the bowler, limit the amount of time taken up by “on field conferences” all of which are intended by the captains to

      limit the amount of play there is in a day. There is no reason why there cannot be 120 overs bowled per day if the

      batsmen are forced to be ready to face once the bowler is at his bowling mark. There is so much time wasted in

      EVERY day of every test match, cut that out and penalise time wasting and we will have more exciting

      test matches and more results/ less draws.

      I have attended both Adelaide D/N tests and the Brisbane D/N test and enjoyed them as something different The

      pink ball for me is hard to see with the naked eye,. on TV or through binoculars was okay. However I much prefer

      a “traditional” day time test and will not be going to the Adelaide test this year.

      • Roar Guru

        August 17th 2017 @ 10:30am
        The Bush said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        No to four (4) day tests matches or limiting bowling run ups (it’s easy enough for batters as it is).

        But I do agree with things like reducing the time between overs with the captain chats and also reducing the time between balls by making the batsmen have to face up quicker and removing how long it takes to get the ball back to the bowler. To not bowl 90 overs in a day is a disgrace. Always.

        • Roar Pro

          August 17th 2017 @ 2:04pm
          Alexander Clough said | August 17th 2017 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

          Definitely agree – especially with the +30 minute allowances we now have. Why they can’t fine or knock runs off for slow over rate baffles me.

          But at the same time, the batsmen do exactly the same thing. Fiddling with pads, stopping the bowler, calling for a drink/new gloves. Umpire has to really step up and take control of the match.

    • August 16th 2017 @ 11:13am
      AGordon said | August 16th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

      I think there are Tests between certain sides that need “saving” and England v the Windies is sadly one of them. This obviously would not have been the case 25 years ago, but times change.

      The two Tests in Australia were a success in the first instance for the novelty of going to a day/night Test, but more because the sides playing were about equal and were having a red hot go.

      Test cricket needs “saving” because there are only 3 or 4 Test teams that are competitive against each other. If cricket administrators across the world were fair dinkum, they’d be trying their best to resurrect the West Indies, for example.

      Cricket these days is run by the almighty dollar and the blokes in charge care about little else. I seem to recall a recent cricket strike that highlights this very point.

    • Roar Guru

      August 16th 2017 @ 12:30pm
      Julian King said | August 16th 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

      Test cricket has shown remarkable resilience to have survived for 140 years.It most certainly has a future, but it requires players and administrators to be on the same page. No conflict in scheduling. Pay test players what they’re worth.

      The game cannot afford to cannibalise itself. The players in particular must do more to promote and preserve the sanctity of the from they claim they hold so dear.

    • Roar Guru

      August 16th 2017 @ 4:11pm
      Giri Subramanian said | August 16th 2017 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

      D/N cricket is not going to revive test cricket in countries where it is already dying. More competitive test matches would. The recent series between India and Sri lanka played out to almost empty grounds which was a sad reflection of the home sides woes. Crowds in India for tests have shown marked improvement after BCCI started concentrating on tests and also because of conducting games in the non – traditional venues. Australia and England have always have good crowds for test cricket and the D/N games just add to the spectacle and possibly will bring in more people to the stadium. The problem will be in countries like West Indies, Sri Lanka, UAE. Probably a 2 tier system will help? A system where teams are more competitive?

      • August 16th 2017 @ 7:03pm
        Derek Murray said | August 16th 2017 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

        Giri, whilst the SL performance in the recent series was abject it isn’t the reason for poor crowds – people have never watched tests in SL in numbers.

        I was in Colombo on business in 2004 and went to Kandy to watch what turned out to be an epic test match. Gilly took over the captaincy when Punter did his back, promoted himself to 3 and made a run a ball ton that must have been amongst his best. Marto made a big hundred too and Warne got ten-for to win it.

        Their team had Murali (who got 9), Atapattu, Jaysuriya, Kumar, Jayawardene, Dilshan, Vaas – the SL all stars. We had Hayden, Langer, Ponting, McGrath, Gillespie etc. Classic battle in a beautiful location and played out in front of a crowd of less than 1000. My impression was that the crowd doubled in size when school finished and kids were allowed to watch a test match on their school Oval.

        I gather the problem was lot to do with the cost of tickets. I gave a cricket nut who I had shared the train trip from Colombo to Kandy with about $5 to buy a ticket. His plan was to watch from outside the fence as he couldn’t afford the cost.

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 9:34am
          Giri Subramanian said | August 17th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

          That’s why I feel D/N isn’t going to bring crowds in certain countries. They just don’t watch test cricket. It makes sense in Australia and England and to an extent SA as people come in numbers to watch test cricket. Like you said even two tier system would not yield much success as only the top tier will enjoy good attendance. But probably having tests in Ireland could bring in lots of crowd? It is a tricky situation as ODI’s before and now T20’s have taken fans away from tests. Good that Australia/England and SA have still kept the interest alive. Now with India playing lots of tests, the interest in India has increased as well and also India being one of the top test nation helps. Pakistan unfortunately do not get crowds because of not playing at home. West Indies fans have lost interest which is probably more due to their teams poor results. I remember India playing in 1997 and 2002 in WI in front of packed stadiums. Those days are long gone. New Zealand still has decent crowds.

        • Roar Guru

          August 17th 2017 @ 10:34am
          The Bush said | August 17th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          I’ve often heard some weird things about the cost of going to games on the sub-continent or the “packages” re tickets.

          I’ve often heard bizarre things like you have to buy multiday passes etc.

          If the fans don’t have enough money, throw the gates open. Full grounds improve the spectacle, which improves tv ratings and sponsorship anyway.

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