Cullinan: Teams need time to adjust to the pink ball
South Africa may have considered playing a day-night Test in Australia had they been given more time to prepare with the pink ball in domestic matches at home and if the stakes of the series were lower but for now, they are “not in favour,” of the idea.
Tony Irish, CEO of the South African Players’ Association, told ESPNcricinfo that the players have not made a “knee-jerk” reaction in rejecting Cricket Australia’s request for the third Test of their November in Adelaide to be played under lights and even took the views of their hosts, who hosted the first day-night Test against New Zealand last year, into account.
“Our team is not in favour of playing the match as a day-night Test with the pink ball. It’s an extremely important match – potentially a decider – of series to the Proteas. The players’ strong desire to play this as a normal Test match is testament to how much they actually care about the series,” Irish said.
South Africa’s main concern over this series stems from the scarcity of Test cricket on their calendar. Despite being ranked the top Test team for more than three years before this recent season in which they lost back-to-back series against India and England, South Africa play significantly fewer Tests than teams such as England or Australia. This year, for example, while they have already played three Tests, South Africa do not take the field in whites again until August when they host New Zealand for two matches and then they have another break before visiting Australia for the three-Test series in November.
Although it is unlikely South Africa will be able to challenge for top spot again in that series, they do not want to jeopardise the possibility of climbing the rankings and beating Australia for a third successive time on their home soil by playing in completely unfamiliar circumstances.
“There are significant differences from normal Test cricket and our players have no experience of these conditions and are effectively being asked upfront to take a chance in this match,” Irish said. “On the other hand Australia’s players do have experience of this so they will have an advantage in what could be the series decider.”
South Africa’s only dalliance with pink-ball cricket came in a first-class match in September 2012 when concerns were raised about the quality and conditions of the ball. Irish said many of the issues brought up then remain unresolved. “There remain concerns amongst players, as expressed by the Australian and New Zealand players, about the durability of the ball, the ability to see it properly at night and dusk and the need to ‘doctor’ conditions to make the ball last,” he said.
However, given more game time, Irish indicated South Africa may have considered the option of a day-night Test. “I’m unsure why the wish to play of a day-night Test wasn’t clearly raised back in November or December after the Adelaide match. CSA could perhaps back then have raised the possibility of playing a few trial matches in our provincial competition and some of the players may have had the opportunity to experience it beforehand,” he said.
Even that may have been difficult because South African international players are seldom available for first-class matches in the country. AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, for example, have not played in a franchise first-class game since 2009. In the past summer, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada also did not make a single first-class franchise appearance.
Another factor is that South Africa’s players have heard that their opposition, Australia, are also wary of the pink ball. “They are well aware of the views of the New Zealand and Australia players expressed after the first day-night Test,” Irish said. “There were discussions with senior Australia players when the Australian team was in South Africa in March and the Test captains also discussed it. It has been clear from all of this that the Australian players are also reluctant to play the match as day-night and that they want to play a normal Test match.”
Irish said South Africa had “an understanding for what CA is trying to achieve and the commercial advantages,” but could not put those above cricket. “This is still very experimental and there is also a strong cricket imperative, inside the ropes, and the players’ views should be important here.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo