BIG READ: Can the pink ball really save cricket?

History will be made in Adelaide tomorrow as the first day-night game between Australia and New Zealand starts. Stephen Brenkley hears the hopes and fears for the future provoked by a different coloured ball

The pink ball revolution has been fermenting for years.

As with many revolutions, it is not so much a case of being alarmed at a sudden, dramatic insurrection as wondering why it has taken so long to reach this point.

Test cricket has been withering on the vine in many, probably most countries. It is casting around for a role in modern sport, despite its obvious allure, and is struggling for an audience.

For every series like the Ashes last summer - everyone, everywhere always summons the Ashes as evidence of rude health and then finds there may be no other witnesses to call - there are myriad other series performed as if the teams were in solitary confinement.

The present series featuring India, powerhouse of the game, and South Africa, has been played out before paltry audiences.

Similarly, the first two Tests between Australia and New Zealand have been patchily attended, which at least was more than could be said for the recent contest in the UAE between England and Pakistan.

Tomorrow in Adelaide, the revolution is upon us. The third Test between Australia and New Zealand will be the first day-night Test of all. It will feature a pink ball, though the colour is almost irrelevant.

Pink happens to have been alighted on as preferable for the purpose, though green, yellow and indeed white balls (the latter has been used in limited-overs cricket for almost 40 years) might have done the job.

The mood is one of excitement and apprehension. If the feeling is overwhelmingly that this must be done, it is intermingled with a fear that the pink ball and the time of the day will distort the game.

Mitchell Starc, a fearsome fast bowler with any colour ball who may well benefit from it, appears to embody the reluctance of the players' approach.

''It's definitely not a red ball,'' he said of his previous pink ball experience. ''It doesn't react anything like the red ball, in terms of swing and the hardness of it, anyway. It goes soft pretty quickly, I didn't see a huge amount of reverse swing in that game and I don't think it swung from memory too much until the artificial light took over.''

Kookaburra, the manufacturer of choice for Cricket Australia, has conducted years of trials to come up with an adequate ball that may last for 80 overs.

Since the conventional Kookaburra does not enjoy a universally high reputation among bowlers, this one will have its work cut out.

Matches at varying levels have been played with it since 2009, when the pioneers at the MCC began banging the drum, and in 2012 the International Cricket Council amended its regulations to include the option of day-night Tests. No one has rushed into this.

As Sean Cary, CA's head of operations said, tomorrow's match has been three years in the making. ''We've had the three rounds of Sheffield Shield cricket, and we've tried to come up with the best conditions that are going to not impact the balance between bat and ball,'' he said.

Amid the hullaballoo down in Adelaide it may be as well to note that cricket has regularly changed.

Revolutions have been almost two a penny.

The first Test match of all, although it lasted only three days, was scheduled to be timeless and featured four-ball overs.

In the early era, Tests in England were limited to three days, in Australia they were timeless.

For instance, the epic Test in Sydney in December 1894 was won by England by 10 runs on the sixth day, by now bowling six-ball overs.

Covered pitches, neutral umpires and the decision review system have all been considerable changes and in some cases demanded different disciplines. The players may now have to develop different strategies for day-night Tests, or pink ball cricket, as it will undoubtedly be known with an undercurrent of disparagement.

It will probably be neither assassin nor saviour. Geoff Allardice, cricket manager of the ICC, recognises that it is not a panacea but nor is it an act of desperation.

''The way cricket has gone in its history it has evolved with what the fans have wanted,'' he said. ''If there is a demand for Test cricket in the evenings it's something we have got to understand more about.

''Test cricket has still got enormously high interest levels. What is changing is the way people are consuming their Test cricket or keeping in touch with Test cricket. But as we have seen recently in other parts of the world, the interest in attending Test cricket is not as great as it has been in the past and some countries are not drawing the attendances they would like.

''It may create an option for some countries. I don't pretend that day-night Test cricket is the answer for every Test match or every country.''

Whatever happens in Adelaide it will be lovely to watch Test cricket on television with people also watching at the ground. The TV companies may think so, too.

Uncovered pitches until the early 1960s meant that in certain conditions bowlers were in the ascendant. On drying surfaces the likes of the legendary Derek Underwood were lethal.

Uniformity in the length of Tests did not finally arrive until the 1980s. Until then there had been matches scheduled for three, four, five and six days, as well as timeless games.

Helmets were introduced almost universally during the breakaway World Series Cricket in 1977 - batting would never be the same again.

Two neutral umpires were brought in only in 2002. Now that television pinpoints error so readily, there is a quiet move afoot to change this so the most accomplished officials are appointed.

The decision review system, still not universally adopted because of India's intransigence or with a common system, has changed tactics, expectations and verdicts.



Army Thunder dig deep for charity match win

Army Thunder dig deep for charity match win

Thunder forced into finding something special in charity match.

Ice cool Boutier in charge at Bonville

Ice cool Boutier in charge at Bonville

French golfer builds five stroke lead in Australian Ladies Classic.

Jetty to be transformed: Plan to demolish Forestry buildings

Jetty to be transformed: Plan to demolish Forestry buildings

Owners seek approval to clear Forestry site for development

Local Partners