MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland has defended the use of the controversial pink ball in the face of players’ criticism and is adamant it will prove a success during test cricket’s first day-night match in Adelaide next month.
A number of players, including Australia captain Steven Smith, have said they have had trouble seeing the ball during play, while others have expressed concern that it lacks the endurance to survive the requisite 80 overs in tests.
Sutherland has been a champion of the day-night test concept throughout years of development and testing, so the ball’s failure to perform adequately in the test match against New Zealand would be a major black eye for his board.
The pink ball has been developed for day-night test cricket, replacing the traditional red ball which becomes too difficult for batsmen to see after dark.
White balls have long been used in limited-overs cricket because they can be seen at night but lack the endurance to perform for 80 overs in tests.
Sutherland said he was comfortable with the players’ criticism but also urged them to get behind the concept.
“The players are going into a bit of the unknown and these guys are elite athletes who are always challenged in a highly competitive environment,” Sutherland told local media.
“So you can understand form that perspective there’s a bit of trepidation.
“Our players just need to focus on what’s ahead and what’s going to be a very interesting series.
“We’re in high-performance preparation mode now, the trials are gone, they happened a long time ago.”
Greg Dyer, president of the Australian players’ union, also cast doubt on the viability of the day-night test, saying he felt it was not too late to reschedule it if the players were not on board.
“Those comments were a bit late,” Sutherland said of Dyer.
“The trials were conducted over the course of the previous couple of seasons and the ACA (Australian Cricketers’ Association) were an absolutely integral part of that process.”
The pink ball showed significant wear during a 50-over day-night tour match on an abrasive Canberra pitch last week, prompting suggestions from pundits that the fielding side might need to be furnished with a new ball well before the usual 80 overs in tests.
“The rules for test cricket this summer are already there, so nothing will change,” Sutherland said.
“Those things may develop down the track, but we know the playing conditions for this test match and we’re confident it will be a very good and fair contest.”
Australia’s players are being given further practice with the pink ball in domestic Sheffield Shield matches this week ahead of the day-night test, which starts Nov. 27.
(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)