MCC ‘experiment’ could change the face of Cricket
The IPL might continue to clatter away elsewhere on the continent but undoubtedly the most important cricketing innovation since Modi’s circus is taking place in Abu Dhabi on March 29.
For the first time, the traditional four-day season opener between the county champions and the MCC will take place away from Lords, under lights and with a pink ball.
The English game might struggle to shake off its fusty image but in truth they are the game’s current leaders in innovation.
It is easy to forget as we watch Ã¢â‚¬ËœDLF maximums’ disappear into hordes of screaming Indian fans but T20 is an English invention and the ECB are experimenting with splitting 40 over matches into two innings affairs at second XI level this summer.
But it is this experiment which could alter the face of cricket forever.
The problem with crowds and Test cricket is that it is too long. We hear constantly about the game dying a death but in truth, outside of England and Australia, it has never been a widely attended sport. But for millions of fans, a day at the Test simply isn’t practical.
Allowing spectators to watch a game which starts at 2.30pm instead of 11am may change things.
Day-night cricket is a magnificent spectacle, even in England where summer nights seem to never end and dew can alter the playing conditions significantly.
And in countries like New Zealand where Test matches are more often watched by hundreds rather than thousands of people it could throw the game a lifeline.
Test cricket will always exist because the players and genuine fans view it as the pinnacle, but it is much more enjoyable to play and watch with packed stands rather than empty ones.
Of course this experiment comes with a health warning: it has to work.
Unless the pink balls live up to the standard required for international competition then there is no point in taking the matter further.
Most people seem satisfied that the colour is the right blend for players and spectators alike but they need to match the traditional red in quality to work.
It is unlikely that the fixture will pass without teething problems emerging but if it all goes to plan then English cricket might have once again succeeded in reenergising the game.