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Clarke not sold on floodlit Tests

Daniel Brettig

May 1, 2014

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'Don't believe we need day-night Test cricket' - Clarke

Even as Cricket Australia pushes ahead with plans to play a day-night Test match within two years, the national captain Michael Clarke has admitted he does not think the five-day game needs to go nocturnal to survive.

Questions about the future of Test matches have led to numerous novel ideas for widening the popularity of the format over the years, and CA has been particularly eager to play for prime time television audiences. A trial of Sheffield Shield matches under lights earlier this year met with mixed results, with numerous reservations raised about the longevity of the Kookaburra pink ball in particular.

When asked in New York by ESPNcricinfo whether Test cricket needed day-night matches in order to remain vital, Clarke replied staunchly in the negative: "No I don't. I think there's room for all three forms of the game we play now. I think it's great that you can play an ODI either a day or a day-night game, T20 the same.

"I've never experienced Test cricket at night so I don't know what it's like ... but I don't believe we need to have day-night Test cricket, for Test cricket to survive. I think if you've watched any Test cricket over the last 12 months, there would have been a lot of people off their chairs watching the game. So long may that continue, during the day or at night."

The CA chief executive James Sutherland has been a vocal supporter of the concept, and declared recently that the trial had been largely successful. Tentative plans are in place for a day-night match against New Zealand in Australia in 2015-16. Clarke, though, said he would need to play under lights at first-class level himself before submitting to those conditions for a Test.

"I'd have to try it first. I don't think it would be fair or right for me to sit here and say yes or no [to playing a day-night Test]," Clarke said. "I think I need to experience it, probably at first-class level, before I could comment on that. They've done that in Australia, they've used the pink ball during the second-last round of Shield cricket in Australia. So when I get back home I'll have that conversation with a few of the players and see what they think."


The pink ball rolls across the Gabba outfield, Queensland v Western Australia, Sheffield Shield, Brisbane, 1st day, March 3, 2014
Michael Clarke: 'I think I need to experience [the day-night long format], probably at first-class level, before I could comment' © Getty Images
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The concerns around the ball went beyond its longevity to other areas, including the fact that the white seam stitching on the pink projectile was difficult to define, robbing batsmen of an important clue as to which way it might swing, seam or spin. Brisbane, where Queensland faced Tasmania, seemed the most helpful environment for preserving the ball, while in Melbourne and Adelaide it deteriorated far more quickly.

"We clearly need to continue to improve the ball and to make sure it behaves as closely as possible to the red ball," Sutherland said after the trials. "But I have always said that somewhere along the way - in order to get to that outcome - it may be necessary to reach some sort of compromise on the ball.

"Perhaps what ball is used, how it's used and maybe for how long it's used in an innings - whether 80 overs is the right time for a ball to last, or whatever? They are all things we'll take into account as we gather the feedback and other data from the trials."

The former England batsman Kevin Pietersen has been a an outspoken critic of the idea, arguing that the variance in conditions from day to night would be so drastic as to require the formulation of a new statistical database distinct from those for current Test match playing conditions.

There are numerous views on day-night Test matches even within CA, and the chairman Wally Edwards has previously revealed he is "not a great believer in it". "I think it's worth trying," he said during the South Africa Test series. "You should trial it fairly rigorously, though, before you start playing Test cricket. But potentially it fills grounds up."

Before any day-night assignments, Clarke will be taking the Test team to the UAE for two matches against Pakistan. Following a 5-0 Ashes sweep and a rousing 2-1 defeat of South Africa away from home, Australia's indifferent reputation against spin bowling and slower surfaces will be tested by Saeed Ajmal and others.

"Facing spin bowling has been an area of an Australian cricketer's game where we've had to continually improve," Clarke said. "We're fortunate in Australia to have really good wickets that do have pace and bounce and then later on in the game you get spin. But when you play in the subcontinent, you're getting spin from ball one, you're getting less bounce, you're getting more natural variation off the wicket.

"So the more we can experience playing in those conditions, the better we'll become. I know our junior programmes do a lot more, in terms of travelling to the subcontinent to learn about those conditions, than what we did when I was a young player. Dubai and the UAE are going to be an extremely tough series, Pakistan have a very strong team, and they know those conditions."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Happy_hamster on (May 5, 2014, 0:33 GMT)

SuperScorebox on (May 1, 2014, 11:30 GMT) Test cricket has adapted to use floodlights already, the concept of day night tests may work for some countries although the traditionalist in me cringes. SuperScorebox on (May 1, 2014, 11:30 GMT) I am not sure Old Trafford is a good example as the area stages football matches with 4 times the attendance levels in the evening quite well ps. all this talk of people not having time these days to attend tests days, did people in the past have more money and leisure time, I think not.

Posted by   on (May 2, 2014, 16:56 GMT)

This 'Internet Society' is busy. Most people can no longer spend an entire day at test matches for many reasons like working for instance. People are always on the run with their ever connected cell phones and internet connections. After work most people wouldn't mind spending an hour or three watching some cricket before heading home. Day into night test matches is a very good idea for this internet generation; they have plenty of nothing to do, so please let them.

Posted by John_Mil on (May 2, 2014, 6:43 GMT)

I agree with with few points which Clark mentioned,already Interest of the Test Cricket is getting Lesser and Lesser day by day with the influece of 20/20 ,and most of the Chairs are empty in the stadium as of now for the Test Crcket ,but if you start of with Day night not sure how this is going to be successful.Might be difficult for the spectators to watch the game and get back to home.How ever ,May be we could try and see for couple of matches in couple of countries so that we can come with conclusion whther this can be continued with Day-Night or stay on with Day matches.World Cup Test matches can be scheduled atleast once in few years as it is in the plan for a long time.

Posted by sawifan on (May 2, 2014, 4:20 GMT)

@haq33, Who does he think he is? He is the Australia Test cricket captain, giving him a pretty darn good right to make comment on such things. I'm wondering if you even read the article, because, as usual he was very diplomatic in his approach. He refused to pass judgement on what it would be like to play day-night tests, because he has never had the experience. A very mature, rational stand point.

Secondly, on the matter of the 'Big 3'. What does this personally have to do with Clarke? He had nothing to do with what the administrators did, nor did he appear to pleased with the outcomes. Stop finding reasons to berate players and enjoy the game. Administrators may be destroying the game, but you can be sure as hell that players like Clarke will be the one fighting to save what they can.

Posted by svenkat02 on (May 2, 2014, 0:04 GMT)

Dont get stuck up on tests. Just play tests in (and between) countries where they are popular (for e.g. Australia, England, South Africa). The rest of the countries should reduce up on test cricket and play ODI's and T20's more. Ultimately its all moving towards shorter durations/quicker finishes. No other game in the world wastes 5 days of time for a game that could possibly not yield a result at all.I dont mind test cricket dying forever.

Posted by Rooboy on (May 1, 2014, 22:36 GMT)

If Sutherland is a vocal supporter of the concept, that alone should be enough to indicate it won't work.

Posted by haq33 on (May 1, 2014, 20:56 GMT)

Sorry who does he think he is?? Why no indignation at the great big elephant in the room, u know the one called ICC big 3, who has already sat all over and had his merry way with test cricket? Thanks to big 3 hijacking, other nations will scramble to make test cricket cost effective in any way possible, so how dare he open his mouth in protest at other nations' attempts to mitigate the mess CA have conspired to create. I guess Clarke is unwilling to have his cake and eat it.

Posted by   on (May 1, 2014, 16:43 GMT)

I fully agree that Test cricket should remain exclusively a day time event. Some changes are necessary, but for the preeminent format, don't mess with tradition

Posted by md4cric on (May 1, 2014, 12:47 GMT)

ICC better learn to listen to cricketers of Michael Clarke/Rahul dravid/Sachin/Kumar Sanga/Mahela/Geame Smith/Kalis/Gaule/Sarwan/Strauss/Cook/Misbah/Younis/W.Akram/W Younis/Ganguly/Kumble/Nasser/ and many more around the world for Truly Cricket Improving suggestion whether it Tests.ODIs or T20 Internationals. Changing for the sake of TV Producers may NOT help/will not help. ODIs have come a long way-Thanks to TV Producers but ICC should've COre Values on which All Forms of Cricket should run. Believe me as an outsider -Aslong as Ind,Aus,Eng,Pak,RSA and SL continues to play Quality Test criccket the money will not dry up so ICC do NOT worry but stay with Day time Test cricket because all young crickerts are "Seeing" red ball only so start at School level and Pour money at that level to bring the Change and I m sure Schools will NOT allow you other than Summer vacation cricket for Day Noght Games.Bravo Michael Clarke.

Posted by SuperScorebox on (May 1, 2014, 11:30 GMT)

Never mind the playing conditions - test cricket is as much about the paying public showing up, and the amount of hassle it is getting to and from grounds via public transport is a serious factor in determining whether or not people would attend late into the evening. Can you imagine trying to get a tram away from Old Trafford at, say, 9.00pm with hundreds or maybe thousands of others? You'd do well to be home much before midnight!

Posted by flickspin on (May 1, 2014, 10:00 GMT)

i dont think its needed

thier was 90000 spectators at the mcg, plus every one watching the test whilst having a family bbq

sydney was a sell out, adelaide was a sell out, perth was a sell out, and brisbane was a sell out.

in australia most people holiday leave coincides with the cricket season.

it might work in other places where people can knock off work and watch a couple of hours of cricket, but if the game finished at 10:00pm they would get home at midnight and struggle the next day at work

my neighbors who have kids in primary school went to a 20/20 international and the mother was happy with the game and the price of the tickets.

well done cricket australia with ticket prices, i cant remember the exact figure but its cheaper than rugby league

most people who take thier kids to sport its a yearly treat not a every week occurrence

i dont see pensioners or school kids watching a night test that finishes at 10:00pm or people staying up to 10:00 watching the game tv

Posted by goabnb94 on (May 1, 2014, 9:36 GMT)

If they want test cricket to thrive, maybe stop scheduling T20 cricket when everybody is off work and schedule tests instead. That way, people have time to go to tests, and T20 can be played on day/night games when work returns to normal.

Posted by disco_bob on (May 1, 2014, 9:16 GMT)

Day/night Test cricket would be an abomination of kitsch.

Posted by dunger.bob on (May 1, 2014, 9:14 GMT)

My biggest worry about night cricket is that there is too much variation between conditions. Almost any turf pitch is certain to have more life in it at night I'd say. Temperatures can drop quite dramatically and there can also be a dew factor. Then you've got the artificial lights.

I know we've been playing day/night ODI's for at least twenty years but it shouldn't be forgotten that there are STILL issues with the white balls, even after 20 years of experience. At the moment they use 2 white balls in ODI's so each one is only doing 25 overs. .. 25 overs is not going to cut it in Test matches. That's 3 and a bit ball changes where we only have one currently. .. Actually, the balls they've been testing are pink, not white, but they seem to have similar problems. They get dirty and slowly become the exact same colour as the pitch.

Then again, it is a good idea if they can pull it off.

Posted by android_user on (May 1, 2014, 7:46 GMT)

@Odi_BestFormOfCricket, you must be kidding by saying t20s are better than test cricket.Test crickets really test out quality of a cricketer

Posted by Vikram_Maingi on (May 1, 2014, 7:23 GMT)

Evening due is a constraint in test match cricket. As far as balls' condition are concerned, a new ball can be taken after 65 or 70 overs instead of 80.

Posted by ODI_BestFormOfCricket on (May 1, 2014, 7:06 GMT)

who cares about test cricket? Let t20 to take over.

Posted by muzika_tchaikovskogo on (May 1, 2014, 7:00 GMT)

If the ball deteriorates quickly, replace it with a new one. Surely, trivial matters like there should not be allowed to stand in the way of innovation. Day/ Night test cricket will definitely improve audiences in the ground as well as TV viewership. Yes it will bring new challenges, but the future of the game cannot be held ransom to such relatively trivial considerations.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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