x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Sri Lanka Cricket fails to see the light of day-night Test in the UAE

Sri Lanka rejection of day-night Test match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium against Pakistan will disappoint the UAE's cricket fans, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

SHARJAH , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Aug 28 : Crowd watching the 1st one day international cricket match between Pakistan vs Australia at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Sports. Story Paul and Ahmed
SHARJAH , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Aug 28 : Crowd watching the 1st one day international cricket match between Pakistan vs Australia at Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Sharjah. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Sports. Story Paul and Ahmed
A couple of years back, as Kent got ready to host their first day-night County Championship match, their coach, Paul Farbrace, talked about his pride at leading a change that could eventually give the longer version of the game a much-needed boost.

"If in 10 years' time there is floodlit cricket played over four or five days and far more people are watching the game, we can look back and say we played a major part of that at Kent Cricket Club," Farbrace said.

Sri Lanka had a similar opportunity, but they baulked. Hours after reacting positively to Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) proposal to play one of their three Tests in the UAE under floodlights, Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) decided they were not yet ready to take Test cricket into the Twilight Zone because "the national team players have not practised under lights and with the new pink ball".

A day earlier, the SLC president Jayantha Dharmadasa had seemed enthusiastic about the idea saying, "We shouldn't say no if the only reason is that it doesn't suit us."

But that is exactly what they did, and Sri Lanka's rejection of the proposal will come as a huge disappointment to the cricket fans in the UAE. Given their work routines, a day-night Test match would have been a gift for the enthusiasts here. Last year, when Pakistan and Australia decided to start their one-day internationals at 5pm, the Sharjah Cricket Stadium was packed to capacity.

A day-night Test would have been a similar success, but Sri Lanka played spoilsport. And their reason, the lack of practise, seems a bit fanciful. They had time from now until December to "practice" before making a decision. The PCB had sent them a dozen balls of pink and orange colours to examine.

True, Pakistan has experimented with orange balls in their domestic cricket competitions, while Sri Lanka has not, but it would not have been such a drastic change. West Indies, England and Australia have also experimented with pink and orange balls in their domestic competitions, and there were no adverse reactions.

Rahul Dravid turned out for Marylebone Cricket Club in Abu Dhabi a couple of years back, for the English county season-opener, when they first experimented with the pink ball and managed to score a century.

"There may be some challenges in places where there is dew, but the visibility and durability of the pink cricket ball was not an issue," Dravid said. "As with any new innovation, administrators and the players will need to take a leap of faith at some point."

The former Australia captain Steve Waugh has also been an enthusiastic supporter of the idea and believes it could help "revitalise" cricket's traditional format.

"Somewhere like Abu Dhabi or Sharjah would be a great place for a day-night Test match," Waugh said. "I would have loved to play day-night Test cricket. I think it is exciting, brings another dimension to the game. People want a bit of change, they want that excitement."

James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, has also been an advocate of day-night Tests. "We limit ourselves by staging cricket's premium format at times when fans often cannot watch," he said.

The dwindling numbers at the turnstiles, and even in front of TV sets, clearly suggests a need to play cricket's premium format at prime time, but fans will have to wait for a bolder lot to make that leap of faith.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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