England has joined a gradually expanding band of day-night Test converts, with the concept having already been successfully trialled in Australia and by Pakistan in the UAE.
New Zealand is hoping to become the fourth country to join the list in 2018, so the question arises: “When will India schedule a day-night Test match?”
The timing would be perfect for India. They currently have a strong Test side consistently performing well. Test cricket in India needs resuscitating, as it does in most countries outside England and Australia. First of all it was the ODI version of the game that captured India’s imagination, following the World Cup win in 1983. Then MS Dhoni led India to victory in the inaugural World T20, which fuelled the highly successful IPL revolution.
The game is in an extremely strong financial state in India, which in turn ensures they are the powerhouse in world cricket. However, with power comes leadership responsibilities, and lately the BCCI has struggled to maintain a high standard.
The 2013 IPL betting/spot-fixing scandal led to the appointment of the Lodha Committee in 2015. The implementation of their recommendations was entrusted to a Committee of Administrators (CoA) appointed by India’s Supreme Court. The CoA’s dissatisfaction with the BCCI’s inaction culminated in them requesting the apex court to boot out the current administrators. All of this has severely tarnished the board’s reputation.
“I suspect there are many administrators – not just in India – who believe the game can survive on T20 alone. I tend to disagree”
A successful day-night Test experience would not only enhance the five-day game in India, it could also do wonders for the BCCI’s public image.
It’s crucial for the game that the Indian board is seen as a good corporate citizen. Despite occasional murmurings about Test cricket being important, the message emanating from India’s administration seems to be centred on the glorified stature of IPL, and their proposed expansion of the tournament will only serve to confirm this opinion.
I suspect there are many administrators – not just in India – who believe the game can survive on T20 alone. I tend to disagree, while admitting it’s becoming ever harder to predict what might happen in the future, with technology moving at space-travel speed.
If cricket in the future is played by two teams featuring artificially intelligent players and adjudicated by robot umpires, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be programmed to play five days.
However, that’s no excuse for not trying to preserve Test cricket so that players in the near future will at least have the choice of enjoying the game’s ultimate challenge.
Test cricket is often largely neglected in the officials’ inordinate haste to fill the coffers via the introduction of T20 leagues. Sure, it’s wise to capitalise on the popularity of the T20 phenomenon and enhance the financial security of the game, as well as expand its popularity, but at the same time the longer version needs constant nurturing.
If administrators still retain hopes of preserving Test cricket, then day-night games are one way of enhancing the nurturing process. Playing under lights, combined with a move to four-day games – Thursday to Sunday – to enhance the product for television, would be the ideal format for an exciting world championship, which would inject much-needed life into the longer version.
However, like most things in the game of cricket, it won’t become a reality unless it gets the seal of approval from India. Day-night Tests in India’s traditional cricket season, winter, would be ideal. In the northern parts of the country, in particular, it gets dark early, and this allows for a number of hours of floodlit play, as compared to, say, England, where the natural light lingers. The prospect of heavy dew is an irritant but this problem could be overcome by smart scheduling and improvements in technology.
Day-night Tests are one step in the process of dragging the longer version of the game into the 21st century. The credibility of day-night Tests will only be enhanced by the strong backing of cricket’s most powerful body.