You often hear cricket officials say: "We believe in the primacy of Test cricket." The question is whether cricket fans believe that occasionally expressed sentiment. It is mighty hard for fans to become believers when, within the same week, the BCCI refuses to play a day-night Test at Adelaide Oval and Cricket Australia cancels a proposed home series against Bangladesh.
The BCCI's decision was extremely disappointing. Adelaide has become the unofficial home of day-night Test cricket, and the legacy of three years of rip-roaring success under lights there was expected to be further enhanced by the presence of a strong Indian team. However, the BCCI's refusal to participate further strengthens the opinion of former Australian prime minister Paul Keating, who argued: "Always back self-interest because you know it's a goer."
No matter what excuse the BCCI offers, it's hard to accept that this decision was anything other than the board looking to increase India's chances of winning their first Test series in Australia against a weakened opponent.
Nowhere can I find even a hint of it being in "the best interests of the game". In an age where T20 leagues are flooding the market, Test cricket needs nurturing from the officials if it is to survive this influx. Day-night Test cricket in centres where it's viable is a must if the long form is to have a future in a market that is becoming ever more competitive and where the officials are constantly looking for ways to compress the game.
Apart from the obvious advantage of the matches being played at a more appropriate time for fans to either attend or watch on television, day-night Tests also conjure up intriguing cricketing possibilities. Because of frequent dramatic changes in conditions, different strategies are likely to evolve for day-night Tests, particularly in relation to selection and batting orders. Day-night Tests also provide greater opportunities for bowlers and challenge a captain's imagination - anything that achieves those two aims is good for cricket.
These Tests also offer the future possibility of four-day games, which could have more appeal among fans and the media. Adelaide has been the leading light in the push to give day-night Tests credibility and a match involving India would have done much to enhance that reputation. The BCCI's decision is short-sighted at best and chock full of self-interest at worst.
As cricket flounders like a man in a thick fog, trying to envisage a viable path forward, the debate often turns to the merit of separate teams for long and short forms of the game. Maybe it's time to consider whether there should be separate administrative committees handling the long and short forms of the game. What is needed, and has been for a long time, is an independent body to administer the game on a global basis. It's no longer acceptable to have individual boards, driven by self-interest, decide when and where matches will be played. The playing schedule has been overloaded and unworkable for many years, and that won't change as long as the current system is in place.
However, the administrators aren't about to vote themselves out of power, and while the leading players are financially comfortable, they are not going to start a revolution in search of a better system. That leaves the fans and the media to agitate for meaningful change. Those two disparate parties might just be sufficiently aroused to rise up together if cricket boards keep making decisions that are at odds with the best interests of the game.