Rigorous testing awaits pink ball
At least a year of scientific research could be needed before a ball suitable for day-night Test cricket can be produced, according to ICC general manager David Richardson.
The former South Africa wicketkeeper is in Abu Dhabi to assess the high-profile trial of the pink ball in the ongoing match between Durham and MCC.
Hopes are high that a strong performance under the floodlights of the Sheikh Zayed Stadium will bring the era of day-night Tests - and improved crowds to go with them - ever closer.
But Richardson believes it is important to tally the anecdotal evidence of players with firm empirical data before such a step is considered.
He even suggested that despite the relatively advanced progress of the pink Kookaburra, an orange alternative has not yet been ruled out.
“Ball manufacturers are saying to us ’you tell us what you need and we’ll develop it for you’,” said Richardson.
“But the thing is we don’t know what we need. We don’t know if we want an orange ball against a black background or a pink ball against a white background.
“That is going to be the first step - the scientific approach, to go to these research guys or universities and get them to tell us what we should be asking for.
“The data collected so far is all very much on a hearsay kind of basis - what did the wicketkeeper think, what did the fielders think, what did the TV guys think.
“Before we even start looking at those kind of projects we need to establish from a scientific point of view what makes sense, whether it’s pink or orange.
“There’s a danger in relying on ad-hoc, hearsay-type evidence. It’s good to have and it’s positive progress but it needs to be backed up by scientific evidence.”
Given those constraints, Richardson said the introduction of five-day cricket under night skies would not be possible as early as once mooted.
“It’s a bit early to say but I think 12 months is a realistic timeframe to get anything reasonable (off the ground).
“We were hoping to get something as soon as this summer but I don’t think that’s going to happen.
“The balls that have been developed so far are still a long way off being able to last 80 overs, in the same way a white ball wouldn’t last 80 overs. They just get too dirty and you can’t see them as well.”
Players from both Durham and MCC have been mostly positive about the visibility of the pink ball - even after 90 overs - over the first two days in Abu Dhabi, with a minor gripe about the darkness of the seam the only real bone of contention.
And despite his own caution about the speed of implementation, Richardson accepts that day/night Tests are all-but a certainty in the near future.
“Down the line I think there are going to be some markets that do want to come and watch in the evening and if we can schedule some matches in that time we must do it,” he conceded.
“I’d be surprised if we couldn’t find a ball that worked and I think there will be a solution if there is a will for day-night cricket.”