Test cricket is the ultimate test for any player, and we should do the utmost to preserve it. No other format is an adequate substitute for Test cricket.
Gary Sobers | Legendary West Indian Cricketer
The Test-match is unlike any other format in cricket. Spread over five days, the age-old format tests players for endurance, skill and patience — qualities which make the format very challenging. In the last three decades, as cricket became one of the most watched spectator sports, an increasingly busy (one can also say ‘impatient’) world has demanded the game to be short and sweet — hence the coming in of the one day cricket format and finally the T20 format. While the shorter formats required the game to be more power-packed, competitive and urgent, test cricket remains the biggest challenge for any player. It is a format for specialists, whether batsmen or bowlers. There is no place for itsy-bitsy players here such as a batsman who can bowl a bit or a bowler who can bat a bit. While many new players have excelled in ODIs and T20s, they have failed to get going in Test matches. For instance, Suresh Raina and Michael Bevan, two of the finest ODI specialists, have been unable to replicate similar success in Tests. Both have found the going tough in the most gruelling format of the game.
For the past few years, especially after India’s 2007 T20 World Cup win, interest in Test cricket started to wane. Even while scheduling a bilateral series, cricket boards have always given more emphasis to T20s and ODIs.
Finally, recognising the need to sustain viewers interest in Test cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has introduced new measures in the format. The recently concluded Australia vs New Zealand Test at Adelaide Oval saw a couple of fresh additions to the format. One was the inclusion of the day-night style for the very first time in Test cricket. The other was the use of a bright pink ball for the very first time in the history of Test cricket, which has only been played with the traditional red ball.
Can the pink ball replace the red one in future? It is too early to be judgemental. It is believed that the red ball has a tendency to get discoloured as it gets older and it becomes difficult to sight the ball at night. However, critics argue that the pink ball also has a limited span of visibility and it becomes a huge challenge for the players to see the ball in a five-day affair.
In Test matches where a new ball is available only after 80 overs, playing under lights is not only difficult but also risky, especially for the batsmen and the close-in fielders. However, with regard to the pink ball, Kookaburra managing director Brett Elliot said, “Throughout the extensive trials and tests of coloured balls, the pink ball was the clear favourite for visibility.”
For this historic test, which Australia won, close to 45,000 people came for the first day of the match at the Adelaide Oval and the ground saw a total attendance of 1,23,736 in a span of three days. This is more than the number that witnessed the previous Test at Perth, which ended in a tame draw, and spectator attendance was higher than any of the non-Ashes Tests at the venue.
The enthusiasm of the crowd was telling of the sense of occasion — a serpentine three-hour-long queue before the start of the game at the stadium entrance. If one goes by the enthusiasm of the crowd then the ‘pink test’ can easily be called a blockbuster.
Lisa Lefik, one of many fans who went to see the game, told the media, “We come to watch most matches, both Tests and ODIs and we’re already very partial to the pink ball. We love it.”