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'Baseball on valium'

If you throw in time wasted on pointless replays to decide whether it's a boundary or not and DRS referrals, cricket actually resembles the description applied by the late comic genius Robin Williams

Adelaide: Before a (pink) ball was even delivered in the historic day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval, the concept received a tremendous boost; it came in the form of a positive response from Indian captain Virat Kohli. "Hopefully it will be better for the game," said Kohli. "It will be a step which we all might remember a few years down the line. Let's hope so."

A general view at dusk during Day Two of the third Test between Australia and New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
A general view at dusk during Day Two of the third Test between Australia and New Zealand at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images

Apart from Kohli's positive endorsement, the other major reaction to the arrival of day/night Test cricket has been a renewed call for matches of four-day duration. That suggestion may seem like an extension of the current revolution but it's actually a return to the past when four day Tests were a regular occurrence. There's no doubt that what appears to be the successful transition to day-night Tests will make the four-day concept far more practical. Back in 1978-79, World Series Cricket played day-night Super Tests that were of seven hours and four days duration; it's far less taxing on the participants to introduce longer playing hours when not so many take place in the heat of the day.

However, not every international venue can accommodate night cricket and this makes a unilateral move to four day Tests difficult. This is especially so when Tests continue to move at the pace of the recently completed WACA match between Australia and New Zealand; a glacier's progress would have outstripped the cricket. The overs in Perth were bowled at tortoise speed and the umpires and referee did nothing to move the game along. There was the obligatory sightboard breakdown, batsmen regularly held up bowlers who were ready to deliver and drinks were served more often than an office X'mas party.

Time is precious
If you throw in time wasted on pointless replays to decide whether it's a boundary or not and DRS referrals, the game actually resembled the description so humorously applied by comic genius Robin Williams. Williams once described cricket as being; "baseball on valium". In fact, while baseball — which generally lasts around three hours — is introducing new rules in an effort to speed up play, cricket officials regularly make decisions that further slow the pace of the game.

A World Series Cricket Super Test in progress. Pic/Getty Images
A World Series Cricket Super Test in progress. Pic/Getty Images

Among the suggestions to support four-day Tests was a lifting of the minimum number of overs in a day from ninety to one hundred. The people making the suggestion obviously don't watch Test matches where elongated conversations between captain and bowler, the tardiness between the completion of one over and the commencement of the next, plus the other hold ups mentioned above, occur regularly.

If four-day Tests are going to be an integral part of the calendar then the officials and players will have to play their part in speeding up the game. Among the avenues available to administrators are full sightboards (with no advertising) that accommodate bowlers who operate both over and round-the-wicket; the introduction of a law where it's a boundary if the BALL hits the rope (and if it doesn't, it's what the batsmen run).

They could also revert to a back-foot no-ball law (with safeguards to stop bowlers delivering from a shortened distance) so over-rates are improved by the virtual eradication of boring front-foot no-balls. The players have to be part of the process by accepting a more sensible approach to drinks and agreeing to the etiquette of batsmen facing up when the bowler is ready to deliver.

It was noticeable that the pace of play picked up dramatically in the cooler conditions of the inaugural day-night Adelaide Test after the tardiness in the heat of Perth. At the same time, as this was taking place, Kohli led India to an emphatic victory over South Africa well inside three days. Two Tests, one a day-night experiment and the other a short traditional match, were proof that both concepts are feasible. And both changes could enhance the longer format but so also would a dramatic improvement in the pace of play.

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