Pink balls and early starts for Tests
ECB weighs up radical moves to solve problem of bad light Broadcasters furious over lack of action in second Test
Pink balls and earlier start times are being considered as ways to solve problems caused by bad light, after farcical delays ruined the second
Test in Southampton. As The Telegraph revealed online yesterday, the International Cricket Council is to discuss its playing regulations concerning bad light following a backlash from angry broadcasters.
The ICC last discussed the issue seven years ago when member boards rejected proposals to play on under floodlights in fading light. But it is understood the governing body is willing to take another look at the issue at its next cricket committee meeting, chaired by former India bowler Anil Kumble.
No date is set for the meeting, giving time for the authorities to look into workable solutions for a problem that is seen to be more specific to England.
Joe Root, the England captain, is open to earlier start times and he also suggested using a ball of a lighter red colour. “Maybe there has to be a minimum standard of floodlights and play on throughout with a slightly redder ball, a lighter red ball, rather than a dark Dukes ball. But until those things change from the ICC, the umpires have got to follow the rules in front of them. As players, we just have to do what we are told and I think both teams did that to the best of their ability,” Root said.
The England and Wales Cricket Board is understood to be open to the idea of using pink balls and bringing forward the start to make up for lost time, which could happen as soon as the next Test, which starts on Friday. At the moment, start times are fixed at 11am and play lost added to the end of subsequent days. Elsewhere around the world, matches normally start 30 minutes earlier when play on a previous day has been cut short by the weather.
The ECB is reluctant to go down that road because it would potentially mess with the plans of supporters who may have booked train tickets with a view to arriving for
an 11am start, but with these games played behind closed doors that is not a problem. With broadcasters and teams staying at the on-site hotels in Southampton and Manchester, it further reduces logistical issues of starting earlier.
One solution is to use the pink ball or bat on in fading light. Both ideas were rejected by members. Since then confidence has grown in the quality of the pink ball, with players using it in Test matches in Australia and England.
Using a pink ball is an ICC decision, and that will take months to ratify. It would have to go through various ICC committees. It is understood broadcasters in this country and Australia, where the ECB have sold overseas rights, were furious at the lack of action.
They accepted light was too dangerous for play, but there was disappointment at the decision to abandon play on Sunday in bright evening sunshine. The ECB has spent millions to provide biosecure venues and there was surprise there was not more commitment to
play the game from the officials. On the fourth day, play was abandoned around 4pm, but the ECB believes it could have restarted at 6pm, giving broadcasters some live cricket.
Broadcasters are understood to have been disappointed the ICC did not allow match referee Chris Broad to comment, believing it increased the confusion over the application of the regulations.
The ICC insists it is protocol for the match referee not to comment during matches apart from in official statements. His report will take into account whether or not enough action was taken to maximise play. The use of the pink ball could provide an answer in the future if poor light is forecast for several days. Seven years ago the players told the ICC it was easier to pick out the pink ball in fading light than the red one, due to better contrast under the floodlights.
The issue is when to use the ball. Would changing from a red to pink ball halfway through a match radically alter the game? Perhaps it could be used from the beginning of a match when a forecast suggests bad light will be an issue over the course of five days. Natural light offers about 30,000 lux. Floodlights add another 2,000 to 3,000, so once the natural light goes the artificial illumination only provides a small amount of change, which is why playing on in bad light was rejected by boards in 2013.
The pressure for change will be applied by broadcasters. Their deals are with individual boards. The ICC is made up of its member countries. If those members are pressurised by their broadcast partners to address the bad light situation, then the ICC will act.