Cricket’s inaugural day-night test in November looks doomed unless Cricket Australia play hardball, after it was revealed 17 of New Zealand’s 20 contracted players oppose it.
The Black Caps’ major reservations about playing one of their three trans-Tasman tests in Australia under lights with a pink ball were first reported in March. Now the Cricket Players’ Association boss, Heath Mills, has gone public to reveal the level of opposition among captain Brendon McCullum’s side, before both national boards meet next month to decide whether or not to proceed.
“We surveyed the players pretty comprehensively a month or so ago and they’re not keen to play a day-night test at the moment,” Mills said.
In response to a survey question about whether they supported the introduction of day-night test cricket, Mills said 17 players answered “no”, and only three in the affirmative.
“It’s pretty compelling. They see this as a pinnacle test series, like our Ashes. We don’t get to play Australia very often and the team are confident. They’re looking forward to it and don’t want this test series devalued by playing at night with a pink ball that none of them have any experience with. It just feels rather gimmicky,” Mills said.
The pink ball can be difficult to see under lights and has different characteristics to the traditional red one. It doesn’t retain its shine for as long and can prove unresponsive for bowlers.
This leaves New Zealand Cricket (NZC) chief executive David White in a tricky position. Desperate for more regular contests against their trans-Tasman rivals, who they last faced in a test in Hobart in 2011, if they buy into the day-night concept being strongly pushed by Cricket Australia (CA) boss James Sutherland it would help the Kiwis’ cause in negotiations for future series.
However, if NZC shake hands on the deal with CA, who insist it will boost crowds and television revenue, the New Zealand players may feel they’ve been let down by their employers. In a statement, NZC said: “The key factors to this idea, as outlined when this initiative was first mooted [last year], include technology, especially involving the ball, and the player willingness/agreement. We’re still in the discussion phase and nothing has been decided yet. We’ll know more after our next board meeting in mid-June.”
CA will confirm the summer schedule after its board meeting in June. It still seems bullish about the day-night match, most likely to be held in Adelaide, going ahead. That’s despite reservations among its own players too, with captain Michael Clarke understood to be against the idea
“CA and NZC are serious about pushing ahead with the concept of day-night test cricket,” a CA spokesman told The Australian. “We feel it will only strengthen the position and possibilities for test cricket in many parts of the world.”
Mills rejected that idea, saying day-night test cricket with a different ball and playing conditions should be agreed on by the 10 test-playing nations before it gets rubber stamped.
“There only seems to be one country pushing day-night test cricket at the moment so it’d be great if there was more stakeholder buy-in and the ICC led some sort of review or process that involved all stakeholders. The guys have more questions than answers so it’s a bit of a red flag.”
CA and NZC must agree on playing conditions before a series begins so there is nothing officially standing in the way, aside from most of the likely participants playing the match under duress.