Football in the UK during the late 80s was a sport dominated by hooliganism and negativity to such an extent that the Prime Minister at the time Margaret Thatcher wanted to play matches behind closed doors. Football had an image problem so what did it do?
In short it took the game to the people and shelved the traditions that were holding it back. Out went the mass three o’clock kick off times and in came TV friendly evening matches that allowed TV viewing figures to skyrocket. People were able to watch multiple matches throughout the weekend as the power of TV was utilised for a 21st century audience and English football never looked back.
Now although the problems with test cricket are not hooliganism based they’re however some serious ones across the globe and over the first two days of this test we’ve seen why the oldest form is starting to look well, old. The bad light situation was an incredibly frustrating one after all the hard work that had gone into making sure the game could go ahead.
I often enjoy the look on someone’s face who doesn’t know much about cricket when I explain to them that in the middle of July at four in the afternoon the players are about to leave the field for bad light. (If you find their face funny then why not explain about the 40 minute lunch break).
All sorts of theories over the last two days about bringing a temporary pink ball out have been bandied around Twitter, but in reality playing with two different cricket balls isn’t a realistic option. For instance what happens to the red one in terms of condition whilst the pink one is being used, should the fourth umpire be sat in his office roughing it up ready for use the next morning? The simple answer is obvious, scrap the red ball.
Many of you are probably now screaming at your screens but the reality is the red ball is not fit for purpose and advances in technology have allowed a perfectly good pink ball to be used in all tests no matter of their start time.
Ask yourself are you really that attached to the colour of the ball that you’re happy for the players to walk off every time there is some cloud cover? A pink ball will allow matches to take place at a later time in places around the world where the evenings are short and subsequently test crowds are nonexistent in the stands.
In the UK we could confidently start matches at midday or 1pm (7-8:30pm close) and play well into prime TV slots to help attract a younger audience. Test cricket’s audience in the UK is mainly made up of a certain age group as David Gower alluded to on his way out of Sky (resulting in Specsavers sponsoring cricket), not surprising when you think about what playing times we use.
The main thrust of the argument is that it gives administrators more freedom over start times, at least for now I would be quite happy to start at eleven and eradicate bad light with a permanent pink ball.
Those of you who love to keep things the way they always were (apart from the crowd in the stands) will have probably turned into a big ball of rage by now but for everyone else maybe it’s time to take the game to the people? Or at least help keep the players in the middle when the clouds roll in.