Whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India want to admit it or not, day-night Test cricket is the future if the longest format of the game wants to survive.
The modern world needs innovation to keep fans interested, and day-night Test cricket in both Adelaide and Brisbane over the last few seasons has done more than just keep fans interested. It’s brought back the crowds, with huge increases in both cities.
It’s not inconceivable to say that in five years time every match across the summer (probably with the exception of Perth due to time zones or the Boxing Day and New Year’s Test in Melbourne and Sydney due to their already big crowds) will be day-night. No more morning starts, no more having a full day off to go to the cricket and broadcasters constantly happy with content in prime time.
It almost seems like a no-brainer. Day-night Test cricket has been a success in almost every element while also producing the best matches of the summer on-field with differing conditions and more grass left on wickets to look after the ball.
Of course the golden goose that is the Big Bash League and other cricketing boards around the world may stop it from happening, but the Aussies, particularly for smaller series, will be aiming to create and drive interest by virtue of the fact cricket will be played into the evening.
Next summer, Pakistan and the West Indies are due to tour down under. Don’t be surprised if Cricket Australia try to increase their level of day-night Test matches, with crowds reasonably low around the country last time the summer presented those two oppositions.
While it’s all good and well to look at where day-night cricket is going into the future, India’s role in driving it there is pivotal and their resistance to the concept for an upcoming tour of Australia is a concern. They are undoubtedly the major players in the cricketing world. They own the Indian Premier League, have the most lucrative broadcast contracts and probably the most cricket-mad nation on the planet.
And while they have big TV ratings and lots of dollars coming in because of those facts, as well as a solidly performing team on the pitch, the question they would be asking is: Why change anything?
‘Don’t fix what ain’t broken’ seems to be the BCCI’s line of thought in holding Cricket Australia back from announcing a day-night Test.
Unfortunately for India, however, even at home Test crowds have been poor. When Australia last toured for a four-Test series, mainly empty stands were on offer for one of the better rivalries in the world of cricket.
Even if cricket is a huge sport in India, crowds are often a big part of the reason why. If you can hear the atmosphere through the TV and not have to look at empty seats all day, especially in a sport like cricket, where there is a lot of dead time, you’re less likely to go channel surfing.
Big crowds make the whole experience, whether at the ground or watching from home, seem better.
India have reportedly bitten the bullet for a Test against the West Indies later this year, with one of the two-match series set to be a day-night affair, but their key reason for avoiding the Aussie game, according to most reports, is they don’t want to give up any more advantages given they are already away from home.
Fair enough, they are concerned about the end result on the scoreboard, but if New Zealand, England, South Africa and Pakistan have all been involved in the concept, what’s the big problem?
The BCCI seem to be creating a mountain out of a molehill issue and are trying to be as resistant to change as possible, which makes zero sense in this circumstance.
What they need to realise is day-night cricket is the future. At the moment, with the exception of the Test championship which should add context to the sport, it seems to be the only way to save the game in the face of the T20 juggernaut.
India are going to be forced into playing more day-night Test matches at some point, so why not now? Why not on this tour of Australia, especially with the hosts so depleted without their former leaders, Steve Smith and David Warner.
Preparing for more pink-ball cricket in the future could only be made stronger, with Cricket Australia apparently pushing for the new Test championship to have rules allowing the home board to pick start times without consultation to the away board, as is currently the case.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said he hopes it will become part and parcel of cricket in the future.
[latest_videos_strip category=”cricket” name=”Cricket”]
“India may or may not come around to that idea for this tour, but I still believe it’s the way of the future. I think everyone in world cricket knows that,” said Sutherland.
“It hasn’t really got to a stage where there’s agreement or regulation around the table at ICC level for the home countries to be able to schedule that.
“We’re hoping there will be some sort of regulation in there (the Test Championship) that will allow home teams to fixture at least one day-night Test match.”
Starting to pick up experience in the pink ball format isn’t the only advantage India could get out of a day-night Test in Adelaide this summer.
Time zones mean most matches start very early in the morning locally. Perth and any day-night cricket would be the exception, so an increase in ratings with a more humane start time could also be on the cards back at home.
While TV and money is a big part of the argument, it’s not unlike India to be resistant to change, given their hesitation in implementing the decision review system previously.
Differing reports suggest India may still allow it to happen, but it’s a fair line of thought to suggest if they haven’t agreed and bought into the concept yet, they aren’t going to before 6 December.
The world of cricket can only hope they join the party, but to not have the biggest nation and board onside would be a major kick in the guts for a so far successful product both on and off the field.