Pink Balls and Day Nighters

29 03 2010

It is well known that cricket is in an uncertain age. Predicting what the cricketing landscape will look like in 2020 is a notoriously difficult task these days and particularly worrying for the traditionalist’s like the Compulsive Hooker. If test cricket’s very own devil, Lalit Modi, gets his way, it will be a smorgasbord of meaningless 20/20 matches interspersed with the new ‘test’ cricket, One Day Internationals where players are praised for their ability to bat or bowl more than half a dozen overs.

Yet it is not just format or length of the cricket that is being changed but other seemingly fundamental aspects, such as the colour of the ball or a day night first class game. These two changes are linked, as was the case in the advent of day night one dayers and the white ball, due to visibility reasons. Instinctively our first reaction was to cry out with pain that yet another part of our beloved game was being tinkered with unnecessarily, but having thought about it, we see no reason why this shouldn’t be changed – providing the ball itself can last the distance and perform similarly to the red one.

The new pink ball is being pioneered in the traditional season opener of the champion county, Durham in this case, versus the MCC. Unusually this is being played in Abu Dhabi (although we’re not sure this counts as domestic) and is the first time that the English season has trialled a day night first class game. Having got over our initial horror, there is actually a lot of good sense behind this experiment. After all day night one day games usually have the highest attendance numbers, and more viewers can only assist in keeping Mr. Modi and his brand of ‘cricket lite’ at bay.Once you have made this decision to alter the timings, then you have to alter the ball as a red ball coming out of the night sky is nigh on impossible to see.

Having thought about it, we can stomach these changes and indeed we hope they work. There have been rumblings within the English game recently about a proposed alteration in structure of the County Championship. Essentially creating a four tier regional competition, so reducing the number of games. The Counties are reluctant to cut any of the one day or 20/20 cricket for financial reasons and so logically it is the unwatched Championship that gets targeted. On the whole we can exonerate the counties themselves from blame, even if they appear to be getting their priorities wrong at a casual glance. Sadly several counties recently announced huge losses with Kent in particular struggling so it is hardly surprising on these grounds.

Ironically, the Championship is still the competition of choice if you asked any supporter which prize they wanted their team to win. Sadly being loved from afar does not cut it in today’s money driven machine that is cricket.

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The County Season seems to begin earlier and earlier every year with today’s March 29th start being the earliest yet. Admittedly this match, as mentioned above, is being played in the dusty heat of Abu Dhabi but it does seem a little extreme. The rest of the counties get under way against the universities next week on the 3rd April, with the Championship proper getting underway on the 9th. With todays warning from the MET office of returning wintry weather including snow, sleet and frost, we actually feel sorry for the players more than anyone!

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