Australia’s players union has not canvassed the opinions of its members to develop an official position on four-day Tests since Roberts’ comments in Melbourne, but its longstanding figurehead said it may go down that path if the concept gained traction.
“I think it’s surprising the most conservative people around this issue are the players rather than the administrators,” ACA chairman Greg Dyer said on Thursday. “But generally speaking . . . the players respect the importance, almost the solemnity, of the five-day game, and wouldn’t want to see it changed.
“My personal view is that we should be maintaining all of the traditions of the five-day game; we should be protecting them with our lives, rather than seeking to make fundamental changes of that sort. Test cricket is priority number one and should always remain so, and five-day matches are a fundamental part of what makes Test cricket.”
While the international schedule has been cited as a trigger for innovation, there are also commercial considerations. The fifth day of Tests is often a costly exercise for hosts, and Thursday to Sunday Tests are an attractive option for proponents of the change.
Those rallying against it point to dawdling over rates, weather and the importance of time itself as among the reasons to stand in the way.
“Instead of boards informing strategy and making decisions about the directions that organisations should [take] and then having executives fulfil that strategic direction, we’ve got marketers trying to determine what’s marketable and what’s the most commercially advantageous position . . . and that’s marketing driving strategy,” Dyer said.
“It would create five more days in the Test summer. What are we going to do with them? Give the players the days off? I just don’t see it is necessary or appropriate. What they ultimately have to do is actually market Test cricket as being the ultimate form of the game and push harder to do that rather than change the fundamentals of Test cricket.”
Australia could well begin the next home summer with a four-day Test against Afghanistan, a one-off match that sits outside the WTC and therefore does not have to be played over five days.
Paine conceded that players also argued against the introduction of day-night Tests but hopes their stance is “taken into consideration” in the four-day debate.
“I dare say going back six or seven years if you let the players have decide on pink ball that probably wouldn’t have happened,” Paine said.
“There is always going to be some give and take. I think there is some merit on it being in the odd Test like we did with England and Ireland [in July 2019]. But I think the big marquee Test series, the Test championship stuff, has to stay five days. I think most players around the world would be in agreeance with that.”
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.