It may still be over seven months until the fixture is played but the third Test between Australia and South Africa, scheduled to start in Adelaide on November 24, continues to attract a remarkable amount of attention.
Cricket Australia are adamant that it should be a day/night match with pink balls. CSA have said nothing officially preferring to allow the SA Cricketers Association to speak on behalf of the players who are uncomfortable about what could be a series deciding fixture being played in conditions with which they are entirely unfamiliar.
CA chief executive, James Sutherland, is using the full might of his copious media department to put pressure on CSA and SACA and shows no sign of backing down.
Until a couple of days ago he had everything in his favour. Local and some independent media were writing stories about the ‘new era’ of Test cricket and painting the Proteas as the clear party-poopers.
But, just as CA appeared to be winning on all fronts in the public relations battle, SACA’s equivalent in Australia – the Australian Cricketers Association – announced that the national players were in favour of playing just one day/night Test per season, not two. CA’s international schedule currently has the first Test against Pakistan in Brisbane, soon after the Adelaide Test, as a day/nighter as well.
The MCC also waded into the debate declaring its conviction that day/night Test cricket is ‘the future’ and persuaded one of its Cricket Committee members, Shaun Pollock, to suggest a ‘solution’ to SACA’s contention that the Proteas would be at an “extreme disadvantage” playing a day/night Test when none of its players had ever experienced it before.
Pollock mooted the possibility of playing the Test against New Zealand in Durban in August as a day/nighter on the basis that bad light would be a factor anyway (as it always is in Durban) and that it might provide an opportunity for the Proteas to familiarise and acclimatise.
The ‘leadership group’ amongst the Proteas is greater than it has ever been. In the past 20 years, from Kepler Wessels to Hansie Cronje, Pollock and Graeme Smith, the captain has held sway and the players looked for guidance. Now, there is a hard core of six or seven senior players – and they all feel much the same way. Day/night cricket may very well represent the ‘future’, but they are not prepared to gamble a series they cherish more than any other.
Cricket Australia may hold the ultimate Ace. Having been ruled as an ‘acceptable form of the game’ by the ICC, day/night Test cricket could be scheduled by the host nation whether their visitors like it or not. But would CA do that? Watch this space.
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