Concerns raised during the Prime Minister’s XI match about the experimental pink ball have been dismissed by Cricket Australia, as a host of cricket and broadcasting figures prepare to descend on Adelaide for a day/night Sheffield Shield fixture that will be used for all manner of last-minute rehearsals.
The meeting between South Australia and New South Wales, part of a full round of floodlit Shield games, will not only serve as a pink ball proving ground for the players involved but also Channel Nine and various operators of technology associated with international cricket and the Decision Review System.
Ian Taylor, the head of Animation Research, recently admitted that the company responsible for ball tracking was yet to do so successfully with a pink ball, telling Fairfax Media that “we can track it some of the time”. Management and crew from Nine, CA, the ABC and numerous other interested parties including the Australian Cricketers’ Association will be in Adelaide to see for themselves how the ball and playing conditions stand up to scrutiny.
The latest version of the Kookaburra ball was chewed up badly by Manuka Oval’s abrasive pitch and square, leading the Test batsman Adam Voges to offer a blunt critique. Players on both sides were similarly nonplussed, and there was much discussion of the topic during the two-day tour match that followed. David Hussey, another participant, said the ball simply did not look capable of lasting 80 overs.
“The ball simply doesn’t stand up for the 80 overs, and during the PM’s XI game we had to change the ball twice, so certainly some tinkering needs to happen sooner rather than later,” Hussey told SEN. “The administrators have simply gone ahead with it, they want day/night Test cricket to happen purely for TV rights I believe. I think it’s going to be here to stay but I really think they have to do something about the ball and very quickly.
“Talking to some of the Kiwis after Friday night’s match, they were fielding in the evening and they could barely pick up the ball. So it’s probably more of a player safety issue rather than playing at night. As Victoria batting coach I’m trying to tell all the batters just to play the ball as late as they possibly can, because it is a different style of ball, and you just see a sort of blur to start off with. It takes a few balls to get used to it.
“The concept sits quite comfortably with all the players, but the pink ball, there could be a better option about.”
Separate issues about the ball’s visibility were raised, including the inability of some batsmen to pick up the orientation of the seam as a way of working out which way it was going to be swinging or seaming. Visual cues such as these are viewed as critical to a batsman’s capacity to survive against fast bowling at the top level of the game. However CA’s head of cricket operations, Sean Cary, said the Canberra match was not a source of worry.
“We’re not reading too much into the condition of the ball during the Prime Minister’s XI match in Canberra,” said Cary, who will also be in Adelaide for the Shield match. “We know the Manuka wicket is very abrasive and has a similar impact on a white ball in limited-overs cricket.
“We’ve worked very closely with the Australian Cricketers’ Association and Kookaburra during its development to get it ready and fit for purpose. That included making significant improvements in the last 18 months around greater seam visibility, colour, shape and hardness.
“We’re as confident as we can be that the ball is ready to go and I think from the experiences in the last round of Shield cricket that we had using the pink ball, we can be really positive as we approach the Test.”
Greg Dyer, the president of the ACA, has stated that it is not too late for the Adelaide Test to revert to a day fixture. However the logistics and commercial arrangements being set in place for a match that was announced as far back as June make this a distinctly unlikely possibility – in a nutshell too much money is being spent, or made.
Advocates of day/night Test cricket have been out in force, with the former captain Steve Waugh declaring the necessity of the game moving into the night in a string of interviews. “Test cricket is withering away in a lot of countries; Australia and England are the only two places where people watch Test matches,” Waugh told Triple M.
“Day/night will bring people back to the game. We’ve got to get over the fact it might not be a perfect ball … once we play one day/night Test people will be saying ‘what were we worrying about?’.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.