Imagine this hypothetical scenario. The Adelaide Test never happened. India lost the first Test of the series in Perth. They came roaring back in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. The series is tantalisingly poised 1-1 with the final Test to go in Sydney. India have enforced the follow-on and are on the brink of a historic series win but on the fourth day of the Test, only 25 overs were bowled, despite only brief periods of rain in the morning. Play was called off because the light wasn’t good enough, all the while the massive light towers at the SCG were operating at full tilt.
Imagine being in the Indian camp in that situation. Instead of the calm we are experiencing this Sunday, the mood in India and Sydney would be very different.
But with play being abandoned early and India’s series win all but a formality now, the discussion has been limited to the studios and commentary box.
However, it’s a discussion that the game’s decision makers need to take seriously.
“It’s a disgrace to our game, this is the last thing Test cricket needs. You spend millions and millions on stadium infrastructure. It’s embarrassing,” said former captain Michael Clarke in the post-play discussion on Sony Six.
It was a sentiment echoed by quite a few — that it bordered on the farcical that the Sunday crowd at the SCG could barely watch a session of play despite the rain staying away after the morning session.
The situation was summed up by this tweet:
Here are the ICC playing conditions, that refer to the bad light situation:
Experts and fans unhappy
Sunil Gavaskar echoed Michael Clarke’s thoughts that this was not good advertisement for the game, saying that this happening on a Sunday when thousands of fans had come to watch the game is all the more bad. Former Australia coach Darren Lehmann thought at least 40 more minutes of play was possible for sure.
Earlier, former Australia captain Clarke had also said that this is exactly the kind of situation that can drive kids away from the sport — the fact that you can’t play even when there is no rain, despite the lights being turned on.
Speaking to ABC Grandstand, former Aussie fast bowler Stuart Clark, said, “This is an embarrassment to the game. This is embarrassing. It’s not dark. Are you trying to tell me if we had a pink ball we’d keep playing? Seriously. I’m all for when it’s dark and dangerous to come off but this is not acceptable.”
While the pre-determined reading on the light meter might be the reason for the decisions taken on Sunday (and well within the rules), the playing conditions give the umpires discretion to make their call. They must make better use of those discretionary powers.
From all the discussions, one thing is clear. Cricket, especially the longest format, must remain relevant to the modern-day audience. With the lights burning bright, the threshold to call play off must definitely be looked at.
According to reports, there were 16,000-odd fans at the SCG on Sunday, and the message that the sport sent out to them today is the kind that makes fans and experts worry for the future of the longest format.