AB De Villiers not convinced by day-night tests

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AB De Villiers and Tony Irish, CEO of the South African Players' Association, have both voiced their concerns over the day-night Test match that is proposed to take place at the Adelaide Oval starting on November 24.

The problems they cite focus on the new format having too many unknown variables, whether that be in the behaviour or durability of the ball and how that creates an environment not befitting a contest that may have the number one test ranking at stake.

These are valid worries but views that are in stark contrast to the overwhelmingly positive response from the world's media following the first ever day-night match featuring Australia and New Zealand last November.


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Almost all reports hailed where it improved upon the usual criticisms of Test match cricket but this reluctance from South Africa to take part is a disappointing setback for this fledgling format.

You might take De Villiers' comments as a victory for the traditional Test match as he expressed the importance that he and other players place on the longest form of the game.

"South Africa and Australia have a great cricketing rivalry, and this is a series that we value" said the 32-year-old, an admirable viewpoint but one that might neglect the greater good of Test match cricket.

A work in progress

Even though the first pink ball experiment ended after just three days of play, it was the first of it's kind and impossible to say what was behind the bowler's domination.

It could have been the ball, but it may also have been the environmental conditions or simply that the batsmen just didn't play very well.

In the most recent Ashes series, only 18 of the 25 possible days of play were used yet no one was clamouring to find the cause of collapses from both sides. Just as any team visiting England will have to adapt to green pitches, everybody will need to adapt to the nuances of the pink ball.

By South Africa remaining reluctant to adopt the pink ball, they may be leaving themselves and the ICC in a sticky situation.

South Africa have only five matches left to play this year so you can understand why they may not want to risk success in one of those tests.

At the same time, the ICC have shot themselves in the foot. By giving more Tests to the financially-rewarding trio of Australia, England and India, South Africa are now unwilling to take part in their experiments with Test cricket.

For the future of Tests

As frustrating as it may be for South Africa, they may just have to suck it up in these early stages for their own benefit.

The battering they received from India on disgraceful pitches at the tail-end of 2015 showed how farcical the Test game can be even with the red ball. There was only one score over 300 from either side and South Africa went past 200 just once.

These things happen in Test cricket. Even though the setting of the day-night Test was noticeably different, it still had the absorbing drama that makes the format better than any else.

De Villiers doesn't speak for the whole South African side however and Dale Steyn has said he'd love to take part in a pink ball match at some point.

"The ball is pink - it's something different. You want to test your skills with that whole thing and it's very exciting," said Steyn, whose comments could be put down to the fact that he is a bowler (not a bad one at that either), but this openness is the sort of statement you might expect more from players who are part of the most revolutionary era of cricket ever.

The modern player is expected to quickly adapt to formats of varying length that bring with it a diverse set of demands. Playing with the pink ball at night will be just one more facet of the game that these athletes will have to come to terms with.

Glowing reviews

Even with some negative reports coming from players, these will likely be inconsequential in the face of the exceptional viewing figures reported during the first day-night match.

123,736 fans enjoyed cricket in the dusk (a record for a non-Ashes match) while 3.2 million watched the final evening of play from the comfort of their couch.

Those spectators all loved what they saw and while the glowing reports from nicely written articles will give us at home hope that the format has finally been given a new lease of life, it is the viewing figures that will encourage the ICC to force more experiments through.

Tony Irish, in some nicely rehearsed words, has said that "commercial advantages" shouldn't be put ahead of how the players feel about the match but even with his "strong cricket imperative", this is clearly what has to be done to move the format forward.

This type of objection seems even more out of place as De Villiers and numerous other South Africans and Australians play in a pyrotechnic-filled IPL, a tournament that couldn't be further away from the roots of the game.

If any generation of players were to embrace the pink ball, it would seemingly be these men who are capable of feats never before seen in the considerable history of the sport.

Day-night games are here to stay

The players need to get on board as it's not just Australia that will host day-night fixtures. New Zealand could soon be facing India in a match that would give the first look at the pink ball in subcontinental conditions.

It may be tempting to write off the success of the first match as a mere novelty but the later start will always give spectators a better chance to take in a night of Test cricket.

It's not just a format designed for fans however. De Villiers has admitted to thoughts of retirement and this sort of innovation is designed to attract his calibre of player back to the longer formats as the money from T20 becomes increasingly lucrative.

Dale Steyn sums up his thoughts on the issue quite simply: "How cool are they?". And most would reply "very, Dale". Regardless of how traditional your opinion is, it's hard to deny that the whole experience feels like a brand new game.

It's refreshing without tearing apart the historical fabric of the sport. What more could you want?

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South Africa cricket
Australia cricket
Dale Steyn
AB de Villiers

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