Tickled Pink

It was the face lift test cricket yearned for. The pink ball a suitable prescription to cure wilting fan interest that has for years plagued the sustainability of the games most ancient format. The days of Brian Lara’s awe inspiring innings captivating spectator attention has been replaced by ‘blink and you miss it’, ‘razzle-dazzle’ T20 ‘entertainment’. Fans simply no longer have an interest in enduring the qualities of guile, grit and determination that are synonyms with the red ball game. Their interests have instead been swayed by a generous helping of franchise cricket, complementing an appetite for six hitting, music and ‘rocket men’. It’s gained a fan-girl like following the likes only One Direction have encountered. A modern generation cricket fan adores the aesthetics, the ‘carnival like’ atmosphere that goes hand in hand with T20. Like a good ol’ fashioned sibling rivalry, Test Match cricket has become T20’s ugly stepsister, and they DON’T get along. So, did the Cinderella story witnessed under the bright lights of the Adelaide Oval revive Test Cricket’s relevance amongst T20 hysteria? Or have we simply added a further novelty to an already over-revolutionized game?

Like a large majority of the cricketing fraternity, I had my qualms over whether or not a day/ night Test Match could progress the format without tarnishing its great historical worth. Of course, this is still yet to be seen, but if 120,000 fans are anything to go by, it seems Test Cricket is set to retire under crimson setting skies.

It had everything. In the words of the Twelfth Man and Bill Lawry ‘the tension, the drama, the buzz, the crowd, the atmosphere’ was all there. So much so that the bright lights and pink ball that resurrected a ‘dying’ format also gave us all tunnel vision. It’s quite possible that we were caught up in the aesthetics of the occasion, without giving any thought to the contest in front of us. Before a ball was even bowled in the ‘historic’ pink ball encounter, a test match between the Proteas and India was finished inside three days. In stark contrast to the adulation and endorsement of the Day Night test, also concluding inside three days, the South Africa/ India clash was slammed by the cricketing community, labeling it an embarrassment to the games greater appeal. It served as a clear representation of Test Cricket’s fundamental issue – fan boredom. Yet, the fans that were lucky enough to pack out the Adelaide Oval over three days (and nights) were far from disinterested. You do the math…

“It’s quite possible that we were caught up in the aesthetics of the occasion, without giving any thought to the contest in front of us.”

Test Cricket has become a high school popularity contest, dominated by a beta version of itself. Like Sandy Olsen taught us in Grease, you have to change your appearance to impress the more popular, and that’s exactly what day/ night test cricket has done for its supporter base. It’s ‘redesigned’ itself to appear more gregarious to a T20 minded spectator who admires the aesthetics rather than the games inner workings. It wants fans to be screaming ‘You’re The One That We Want!’ as Test Cricket rolls into town like the circus every year.

Loved it or loathed it, you had to admire the spectacle. From a cricket lover’s standpoint, the night session delivered on evening up the contest between bat and ball. Swing was king as batsman prodded and poked outside off-stump, waving their bats like a magician waving their wand. This time, however, the bowlers had a spell over the batsman, with the night session yielding 13 wickets. Seeing the ball sail over the rope, as has become the tradition since the inception of T20, was for the first time in years missing from a red ball contest. The night session may have even (and I say this regretfully) brought an element of attritional Cricket back into the game since its absence in the early 2000’s.

“The first ever day/night test left us with more questions than answers.”

So, where does Test Cricket’s future lie? Will it become the games most lucrative format once again? It’s quite possible that the first ever day/night test left us with more questions than answers. As facetious as this article may sound towards the day/ night test in Adelaide, something had to be done about the soulless atmosphere of the GABBA at the start of the summer. If the pink ball is to become the norm’, the only ‘test’ for the ICC and its associates is finding a healthy balance between Test cricket and T20. This must somehow be achieved without fans choking on franchise cricket that’s being shoved down their throats with diplomatic negligence.