by Monideep Ghosh
It was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the historic day-night Test match, which opened at the Adelaide Oval, Australia.
A crowd of more than 47,000, a near capacity at the Adelaide Oval and a record cricket attendance for the ground, suggested fans endorsed the idea. Most of the scepticism of day-night Test cricket was centred on the mysterious pink ball. Nobody quite knew how the ball would fare, even though it had been trialled successfully in the Sheffield Shield recently. There were concerns that the ball would swing too wickedly under lights; those fears were alleviated. The ball did swing early in Australia's innings, as masterly proponents Trent Boult and Tim Southee relished conditions to their liking. But it was hardly unplayable, and swing wasn't as pronounced after the initial opening burst from Boult and Southee.
Doubts lingered on the visibility of the ball, but the pink ball glistened beautifully under the ground's lights and attractively complemented Adelaide's pretty nightfall. During New Zealand's innings, there was no evident sign of deterioration to the ball. Reportedly, players from both sides were happy with the proceedings.
After such a lethargic opening two Tests, where dead pitches dominated the headlines, it was pleasing to see the Trans-Tasman finale receive the billing it deserves. Attendances were disappointing in Brisbane and Perth, resulting in matches being played without much atmosphere that, sadly, appears to be the norm in Test matches around the world.
This is certainly not the case in the majority of the cricket world, but Test cricket is still thriving in Australia. It still exudes status as cricket's most treasured format, a lofty standing that is confirmed by very strong television ratings. But that has not translated into masses actually attending Test cricket.
There have been many theories on why Test cricket is struggling to reel in the mainstream public, and certainly expensive prices are a factor. But perhaps the apathy can be largely attributed to technology and convenience. These days, it is so easy to monitor cricket through smartphones and other devices. Why spend an expensive day out at the cricket and risk sunburn when you can easily follow the game on your phone or television?
The day-night initiative is so important for not only Test cricket's survival but to ensure it can flourish. Every effort must be made to avoid the awkwardness of Test matches being played in near empty stadiums. Granted, it is difficult to think of ideas to get people rushing back to Tests but playing under lights certainly is a proposal with merit. If this Test continues to be a success, and every indication is positive, then it is likely more day-night matches will be scheduled in the future.
People like something new; the unexpected is genuinely intriguing. Nobody really knew what to expect, which created its own dose of anticipation. Generally, one can predict with some surety what is likely to happen in a Test because we've seen it all before. It was genuinely fascinating to watch the rarity of ball dominating bat, which wasn't just a by-product of blatant pitch doctoring as is being seen in the current series between South Africa and India.
It was enthralling to watch the players adapt to playing under lights, where the pink ball appeared to hoop around and rear off the pitch more sharply than during daylight. The unique conditions leads to new tactics resulting in a markedly different game than we're accustomed to.
Perhaps after day-night Tests become the norm, it will be inevitable for the fascination to erode. Nobody knows if this is just a fad, but it's good to see Test cricket being loved again by the masses. Maybe it will be a turning point in the format's history, maybe it won't. But for one day, anyway, Test cricket felt like a grand spectacle again.