Sutherland welcomes possibility of day-night Tests
James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has welcomed the ICC's endorsement for countries to play day-night Tests. The change, which depends the development of a suitable ball, came into effect with the new playing regulations from Tuesday.
Sutherland indicated that Australia would consider proposals to play day-night Tests at home, to better help fans follow "cricket's premium format". The arrangement would require bilateral agreement on playing times and the brand, type and colour of the ball used.
This last point could be the most significant obstacle in the immediate future, with tests on a pink ball still being conducted. Cricket South Africa last month expressed doubts about the ball's viability, while day-night first-class matches have also been trialled in England, the West Indies and, most recently, Bangladesh.
"Test cricket is by definition played on at least three week days, times when most people are at work or school, and this limits the ability of fans to attend or watch on TV," Sutherland said. "We limit ourselves by staging cricket's premium format at times when fans often cannot watch."
"CA has a formal strategic plan that demands Australian cricket puts fans first and we will now add day-night Tests to the agenda when we talk to other Test nations about their future tours Down Under."
Sutherland said that when a Test was played in Perth on Australia's west coast, which is three hours behind the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, the television audience was much higher because fans on the east coast were home from work. However, he conceded that coming up with an alternative to the red ball used in Tests could take time.
"Finding a Test ball that is as easily visible in the day as it is at night is still a technical work in progress that the ICC is now leading and it has not yet been possible to predict when such a ball might be available," he said. "The traditional red ball is not regarded as suitable for night cricket because it is not as visible at night as it is in the day, and the ODI white ball is not suitable for Tests as it is not as durable and does not last as well as a Test ball needs to last."
However, the move to day-night Tests could gain extra momentum with Cricket Australia set to negotiate a new broadcasting deal over the next few months. Channel Nine is keen on the idea of Test cricket being on air later in the day, when more viewers can tune in, and the network's head of sport, Steve Crawley, said the matter would be discussed when CA and Nine sit down to work on a new deal.
"I can't see a downside to it from an entertainment point of view," Crawley told the Age. "We'll be starting a Test match [against South Africa] Friday week in Brisbane at a time of year when so many people are at work during the day, and night-time cricket would give us a bigger audience."