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Not players’ body clocks, nostalgia is holding back day-night Test cricket in India

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CoA head Vinod Rai has expressed concerns about players’ body clocks, while also talking about fans’ interest. But won’t it be better for fans to be able to watch Tests every day?

Vinod Rai, the former Comptroller and Auditor General, has been conspicuously silent on the landmark 2G verdict of December 2017 in which all suspects were acquitted. And by some coincidence, even his involvement in Indian cricket and the Banks Board Bureau has come under fresh fire since.

But recently when he did speak, he raised an objection to the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) proposal to hold a day-night Test against the West Indies. Rai, head of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators to run the BCCI, questioned the move, saying that while head coach Ravi Shastri may have been consulted, he would also like to consult the players, whose body clock has to adjust to playing during the night for five consecutive days.

This is a bit strange, because modern cricketers are used to playing day-night limited-overs games. Globe-trotting stars who play Twenty 20 games under lights can turn up to play Test matches. The debate about their effectiveness in the longer format is a separate one.

Rai then went on to say that fans are the biggest stakeholders. But pink ball Test cricket was envisioned for the benefit of fans. Even the old romantics of Test cricket do not have time to watch five whole days’ play anymore. Day-night Tests were devised to strike a balance between tradition and the changing times and preferences.

By vetoing day-night Tests, Rai is possibly taking away the right of the fans to watch the game as they please.

Rai’s assertion is absurd, because even when cricketers have expressed their reservations about day-night tests, it’s never been about body clocks. The quality and wear and tear of the pink ball, certainly, as expressed by A.B. de Villiers, then captain of South Africa, in 2015: “The pitch also had to be ‘doctored’ to minimise the abrasive wear and tear to the pink ball, which seems to happen quicker than the red ball, and this is also an area we feel is a big factor in the run of play.”

While efforts are still on to improve the ball, the format has attracted huge spectator interest and crowd numbers, paving the way for Australia to host two more Tests under lights, against Pakistan and South Africa, thereafter.

Thirteen day-night Tests have been played till date. Surprisingly, none of the players’ concerns borders around the fact that their body clocks can’t adjust to playing under the lights. Former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq even hailed it as the future of Test cricket.

Only Dinesh Karthik in 2016 flagged the challenge of sleep pattern changes. But then he admitted that professional cricketers have to get used to anything.

In a cricket crazy country, the BCCI has done well to channel the fans’ passion into effective engagement and revenues. It did this by promoting limited overs cricket under lights and launching the IPL at the right opportunity, among other various measures. Day-night Test cricket is an obvious extension to those.

Rai’s objection could be a case of bureaucratic hangover – ‘I know better than you do’.

Players’ welfare is necessary, but keeping the longest format relevant to fans is paramount.

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