In the on going series between England and Pakistan, the biggest talking point unfortunately has been about the debate on Umpires and play being called off for bad light.
In the second match at Southampton, only 807 deliveries were bowled, which is the 9th lowest in terms of balls bowled in a test match played in England. Although rain played its part, bad light was also a major factor.
With the floodlights available and after watching a number of night games played, this problem would sound very silly for general viewers. But the fact is that the visibility of the red ball used in Test Cricket is not good under lights and hence there are concerns regarding the safety of the players.
There has been a lot of criticism that the umpires have faced with respect to this issue. There is a common opinion that they have not tried enough to stay out in the middle. Due to this pandemic, there has been a lot of effort put by the boards and the players to make this series possible and not able to play cricket due to light is something that is very disheartening for everyone involved and the fans in particular who have been waiting to watch live action.
So what are the possible options ?
The easiest solution that could help solve this problem is to start the match earlier. At the moment the matches have been starting at 11 am local time. Hence, they could easily have an earlier star to the match.
But in general looking at the future, another thing that can be done is the umpires can slightly relax the light requirement for the match. The MCC law clearly has provisions for the game to be played even if it’s not the most ideal conditions. Hence, it’s up to the umpires to make the call for more cricket to be played. It is understood that they cannot change the reading required during the match since that would make it unfair, but they could definitely have a slightly lower requirement where the risks are minimized and cricket is being played.
There have been day night tests played and that’s the reason the Pink Ball was brought into game, since it has better visibility under lights. Changing from red ball to pink ball in the middle of the match at random times is not advisable. Hence they should either have all the matches played with Pink ball throughout, or they could even have red ball used for the first two sessions of the day and pink ball for the last session.
One more solutions is to have a reserve day for test matches which can be utilized in such situations where there is not enough cricket being played. They could have a minimum number of overs to be bowled on the first 5 days and if that is not achieved due to adverse conditions, the reserve day can be utilized.
With Test Cricket seen as the most vulnerable format in terms of audience engagement and its future, we definitely cannot afford to have such problems continue.
At the moment, it is solely up to the Umpires to make the call if such a situation occurs again and this time, they should be more proactive and try to focus on getting the players on the field as much as possible by trusting their instincts rather than rigidly sticking to the older convention.
If you can think of any other solution, please do share it.
The Links to Part 1 and Part 2 of Umpires or Robots is given below: