When Australia and New Zealand take to the field at the Adelaide Oval on the 27th November, it will mark a historic day for cricket. For the first time in 138 years, a test match will be played under floodlights… and with a pink ball!
With cricket’s premier format losing its spark as attendances and TV viewing figures around the world slowly decline, it is the hope of many in the game that this initiative can reignite public interest and restore the ultimate contest between bat and ball back to its former glory.
The theory behind the new format makes sense. By changing the playing times you allow those who would normally be at school or at work to either attend the games or watch them live in the comfort of their own homes, thus opening up test cricket to a larger audience around the world, maximising exposure and increasing the revenue the sport generates.
Whilst this new concept represents a great opportunity for cricket, it is also a great chance for sponsors, broadcasters and any brands involved in the sport to gain greater exposure and engagement amongst a wider captive audience. Channel Nine, the host broadcaster for the Adelaide test in Australia has already said it expects television ratings and advertising revenues far in excess of those offered for standard Test matches, so it’s no wonder there is a buzz surrounding the potential for this new format. The sport profits as does its key stakeholders, at least that’s the plan anyway!
On paper day/night tests seem to be a winning formula but there are still many obstacles that must be overcome before it can establish itself as regular fixture in the international cricket calendar. One of the biggest talking points has been the new pink ball. Developed by experts to replace the traditional red ball which becomes too difficult to see at night, the new pink ball is supposed to offer greater visibility and the endurance to last the full 80 overs required in tests.
However there remain concerns about its visibility, with a number of Australian test players stating they have struggled to see the ball whilst playing in recent days. Key stakeholders in the game undoubtedly stand to profit from the new format but the player’s views can be summed up as one of scepticism and nervousness and if this new format is too succeed, it is the players who will ultimately decide its fate.
No doubt the traditionalists will scoff at what they view as an act of cricketing blasphemy against the holy grail of their sport, the substitution of a lunch break for a ‘dinner’ break will certainly raise a few eyebrows, but test cricket needs to adapt to ensure it continues to engage with young people and encourage them to play the game.
Only time will tell if day/night tests are to become a success, but one thing is for certain, this is a very exciting time to be involved in cricket. I for one can’t wait to see how brands take advantage of this new format to engage with a wider audience in new and exciting ways.
In the words of Cricket Australia’s Chief Executive James Sutherland, “Let’s give it a red-hot go and see what develops.”