Game continues to leave spectators in the dark - Chris Waters on Cricket

FOR whom does cricket exist?

Bad light: Umpires take a light reading during day one of the first Test at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture: PA
Bad light: Umpires take a light reading during day one of the first Test at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture: PA

The question is pertinent following the recent furore surrounding bad light.

Only 134.3 overs were possible during the second Test between England and Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl – the fewest in this country since 1987.

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That was mainly because the light was considered unfit for play, despite the fact that leading grounds nowadays have floodlights.

All and sundry have had their say on this issue, resulting in a cornucopia of possible solutions.

Play Test cricket exclusively with a pink ball... Substitute the red ball for a pink ball of a similar age whenever the light gets bad… Equip the players with special light-enhancing glasses/lenses… Improve the floodlights… Pray to the ancient sun god Wikka Wokka (okay, I made the last one up).

But the general consensus is that bad light should not be an issue in 2020 and that cricket must move with the times.

That it is still an issue is due to the perceived injury risk to players (present at all times anyway), the typically ambiguous rules and regulations concerning bad light, and perhaps a culture of everyone wanting to get off the field at the first available opportunity – not least because everyone is knackered through too much cricket.

Ergo, as with most issues concerning the game today, cricket appears to exist primarily for the benefit of those directly involved/employed within it.

It is not about the game per se and what is best for the game in a societal setting, with so many alternative leisure options for people to choose from. The sport has become too insular and complacent, serving mostly itself.

Cricket, of course, should exist for everyone, but it often seems to forget about perhaps the most significant people of all – the spectators.

Granted, there would be no cricket for them to watch without the players, but cricket would not have much of a future without spectators either, albeit they are presently having to watch from afar due to the equally ambiguous rules and regulations imposed by Boris Johnson and his Covid cohorts.

Whether it’s bad light, the issue of when England players are available to play for their counties, the imposition of The Hundred despite widespread opposition, the fact that county players can suddenly swan off to the IPL and miss the start of a season, the systematic reduction in the number of County Championship games, an increasingly white-ball driven schedule that has pushed Championship cricket into the margins, the list goes on.

Cricket takes its spectators for granted and pursues new followers as relentlessly as a Twitter fiend.

The starting point, when it comes to bad light and all such subjects, should be this – what is best for the spectators, those who pay to watch?

Of course, if it is so dark that an incoming batsman has to walk out to the crease holding a candle in one hand and his bat in the other, or if the first slip has to take a lighter out of his trouser pocket to check that he is not standing too close to the wicketkeeper, then conditions might conceivably be too dangerous.

But we have floodlights, for goodness sake, the ability to play with different coloured balls, and if things are less than perfect as a result then they are less than perfect.

Cricket is a game of a great many variables.

It needs to prize and prioritise the people who watch it.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson