MELBOURNE: Cricket Australia unveiled plans on Wednesday for day-night Tests against South Africa and Pakistan but admitted player concerns about the experimental format meant the Proteas’ fixture was not locked in.
The day-night Tests using a pink ball are a central part of Australia’s home international schedule for 2016-17, which also features limited over matches against three nations.
CA chief executive James Sutherland said Pakistan had agreed to play a day-night Test in Brisbane but South Africa’s players had refused to commit to a similar fixture in Adelaide.
“Understandably, there is some concern from the South African players,” Sutherland said, underlining CA’s argument that innovation was needed to reinvigorate Test cricket.
“Day-night Test cricket is all about the fans and a day-night match in Adelaide will be a bigger Test match crowd than the South African players will have ever experienced.”
Pakistan have committed to the day-night Test in sub-tropical Brisbane, where Sutherland said the climate is ideal for the format.
“We’ve had a number of pink ball trials under lights in Brisbane and believe that the time is right,” he said.
“Pakistan should be applauded for committing to and supporting the day-night Test initiative.”
Sutherland said holding a day-night Test in Brisbane during the school holiday would draw big crowds, while opening the Test season against the Proteas in Perth would attract the city’s large South African community.
The Gabba has become a fortress for the Australians, who have not lost a Test match there since 1988 and have been defeated just eight times in 58 Tests.
The South Africans have never won a Test in Brisbane and have never lost in Perth, having two victories and a draw in their three previous Tests at the WACA Ground.
“The decision to start the international season in Perth allows us to do so with a bang,” Sutherland said. “It gives Western Australian cricket fans, including a strong local South African community, the chance to see two of the world’s best sides, while allowing us to broadcast the match in prime time to the east coast of Australia.”
South African players association chief Tony Irish said this week that the Proteas, unlike their Australian rivals, had no experience with the pink ball and did not want to be disadvantaged in the Test series.
“The reluctance to play is a sign of how much importance the South African players place on the series against Australia,” he told The Australian newspaper.
South Africa, currently rated third in the world, will be aiming to replace Australia as the top-ranked Test team in the series, with the planned day-nighter in Adelaide looming as a potential decider.
But South African skipper A.B. de Villiers said his team had sought feedback from Australia before the World Twenty20 and both sides has walked away from their meeting reluctant to play the Adelaide game.
“At the moment, we are not too keen on playing in the proposed day-night test match due to a few concerns that have come from a number of sources involved in the maiden test played last year,” de Villiers told South Africa’s Independent Media.
“We had a meeting with [captain] Steve Smith and some of the Australian players when they toured here earlier this year, and the consensus from our talks were that there are just too many unknowns.
“Players from both teams were reluctant to go ahead with it. South Africa and Australia have a great cricketing rivalry, and this is a series that we value.
“We could well be playing for an opportunity to regain the number one Test ranking, so playing a day-night match is a fundamental change to the itinerary.”
Administrators regard the inaugural day-night Test against New Zealand in Adelaide last season as an outstanding success, attracting 123,000 spectators and an average television audience of two million.
Although players from both sides hailed the match a success, they also had reservations about the pink ball’s visibility and movement from twilight into the evening.
The CA schedule also breaks with tradition by stripping Brisbane’s Gabba of its customary hosting rights to the first Test of the season.
Instead the first Test against South Africa will be held in Perth from Nov 3-7, with Brisbane hosting the opening Test against Pakistan from Dec 15-19.
In addition to three-Test series against South Africa and Pakistan, the schedule also includes five one-dayers against Pakistan, three against New Zealand and three Twenty20 Internationals against Sri Lanka.
Nov 3-7: Australia vs South Africa 1st Test (Perth).
Nov 12-16: Australia vs South Africa 2nd Test (Hobart).
Nov 24-28: Australia vs South Africa 3rd Test (Adelaide, proposed day-night).
Dec 4: Australia vs New Zealand 1st ODI (Sydney).
Dec 6: Australia vs New Zealand 2nd ODI (Canberra).
Dec 9: Australia vs New Zealand 3rd ODI (Melbourne).
Dec 15-19: Australia vs Pakistan 1st Test (Brisbane, day-night).
Dec 26-30: Australia vs Pakistan 2nd Test (Melbourne).
Jan 3-7: Australia vs Pakistan 3rd Test (Sydney).
Jan 13: Australia vs Pakistan 1st ODI (Brisbane).
Jan 15: Australia vs Pakistan 2nd ODI (Melbourne).
Jan 19: Australia vs Pakistan 3rd ODI (Perth).
Jan 22: Australia vs Pakistan 4th ODI (Sydney).
Jan 26: Australia vs Pakistan 5th ODI (Adelaide).
Feb 17: Australia vs Sri Lanka 1st T20 (venue TBC).
Feb 19: Australia vs Sri Lanka 2st T20 (venue TBC).
Feb 22: Australia vs Sri Lanka 3rd T20 (venue TBC).
Courtesy : Dawn News