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ICC to push forward with day-night Test plans

The introduction of the day-night format into Test cricket has taken another step forward after the International Cricket Council (ICC) said its Cricket Committee is to strongly recommend Test-playing nations consider staging five-day matches under floodlights in order to attract more spectators.

Cricket’s global governing body has recorded an increase in attendances during international one-day and Twenty20 matches that have been played at night in recent years. During these games, the playing area is lit up by floodlights and players use a white ball.

Day-night matches have been a subject for debate at the ICC for some time now and the body recently received a report from the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) on a four-day first class match that was played using pink balls in Abu Dhabi in March. Having analysed the report during a meeting in Mumbai at the weekend, the ICC Cricket Committee will now submit a “strong recommendation” that member countries consider staging day-night Test matches.

“There will be a strong recommendation from the Cricket Committee to member countries that they should identify opportunities to play Test matches that extend into the evening hours,” the ICC said.

“There was also discussion on the concept of four-day Test cricket, and while the committee was not of the view that Tests should be shorter than five-days, it acknowledged that the game will need to be open to considering proposals in the future that look to enhance the public appeal of cricket’s oldest format.”

The possible overhaul of Test matches comes at a time when the ICC is facing the threat of a possible split in world cricket. Indian business conglomerate the Essel Group this month revealed plans to establish a city-based Twenty20 league in the country.

Essel, which is owned by billionaire Subhash Chandra, recently prompted an ICC investigation following reports that its subsidiary television network Ten Sports had started registering company and website domain names similar to those of national cricket boards. Suggestions that Essel was plotting a breakaway international cricket competition were rebuffed by Chandra, but he maintained his firm’s interest in the sport having previously overseen the short-lived Indian Cricket League (ICL).

Such a move has attracted criticism from various ICC member boards, with Giles Clarke, who has recently stepped down as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the latest high profile figure to hit out at the plans.

Clarke, who has handed chairmanship over to Colin Graves, will still represent the ECB board internationally and is due to step into a senior role at the ICC. In his final speech as chairman, Clarke said the launch of a rival group could cause significant damage to the sport around the world.

Clarke said, according to UK newspaper The Guardian: “Recent events have uncovered a deeply disturbing plan by an Indian business, Essel Group, to set up another rebel league, reminiscent of the ICL that was owned by the Zee Group.

“That league closed several years ago amidst allegations, according to the media in Pakistan, Australia and India, of unpaid players and court cases alleging fixing of matches. These enterprises are controlled by one and the same owner, and the denials produced by their executives seem most bizarre given the plethora of recent new company and website registrations. I cannot see, as ICC finance and commercial chairman, why anyone should benefit financially from TV rights ownership on one hand, and then expect to be allowed to attack the game financially on another.”