Test cricket’s foray into a day-night format will gather pace this week – despite players still having reservations.
The opening Test between Pakistan and the West Indies in Dubai will be played with the Kookaburra pink ball, albeit one that has been upgraded since last summer’s inaugural Test under lights between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide.
This latest Test comes days after the England and Wales Cricket Board acknowledged the time had come to host a day-night Test, with this to happen against the West Indies at Edgbaston in August.
The English use the Dukes cricket ball, with that manufacturer working to have a pink ball ready for the Test. However, it’s understood Melbourne-based Kookaburra will consider making a pitch for its ball to be used.
Kookaburra has continued to upgrade its pink ball, with the latest version – a new black seam replacing a green and white seam – earning a favourable response from players when trialled in the Sheffield Shield last summer.
“We’ve been developing the pink ball for 10 years and feel we lead the way as evidenced by its use in the Australian day-night Tests, first-class matches in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and this week’s Test in Dubai,” a Kookaburra spokesman said.
“If the opportunity came up to trial our current pink ball for first-class cricket in England we’d love the opportunity. It appears that only the original development pink ball has been trialled there and we’re all aware of how much the ball has developed since then through to its use in first-class and Test cricket.”
Australian players had complained they had trouble sighting the pink ball through twilight and at night but it’s hoped the black seam helps to rectify this.
The Kookaburra ball has also been trialled in India’s Duleep Trophy but fast bowlers there have complained about a lack of reverse swing – typically a key weapon on the sub-continent and something Mitchell Starc exploited magnificently in Sri Lanka this year.
Kookaburra responded by declaring its primary concern was making the ball retain its shine for as long as possible, and to do this required more lacquer on the ball. Reverse swing is generated when one side of the ball becomes scuffed.
Board of Control for Cricket president Anurag Thakur said more work was needed before his board would rubber-stamp a day-night Test.
“As far as trying it in Duleep Trophy under lights is concerned, it was a big success. But you need to look at the overall picture before you take the final call. I think we need to look into many areas before we take the final call. I would like to go into details in a scientific manner to take the final call,” he told Indian reporters.
Cricket Australia’s fondness for the concept – driven by the desire to ensure the game’s traditional format remains relevant, and can generate strong broadcast ratings in prime time, boosting advertising – will see two pink-ball Tests this summer. Adelaide will again play host to the pink ball, in the third Test against South Africa, while a pink ball will also be used in the opening Test against Pakistan at the Gabba.
Players’ concerns about the quality of the ball used in day-night Tests are set to be reaffirmed at this week’s annual meeting of the Federation of International Cricketers Association in Cape Town, South Africa.
In FICA’s 2016 structural review of world cricket, players also argued that “innovation with potential such as day-night Test cricket is individually pursued without collective vision or direction”.
While Test cricket is healthy in England, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said day-night Tests could attract a wider audience. The ECB also felt it necessary to help their players adjust to the pink ball ahead of the 2017-18 Ashes series, as CA will schedule at least one day-night clash.
“It’s useful to have one before we go to Australia. Giving guys the chance to play with a pink ball under lights, before an Ashes Test in similar conditions,” Harrison said.
“It’s a good opportunity to stick a stake in the ground to say we are keen to innovate.”