Published on March 21st, 2018 | by Sandipan Banerjee1
Is day-night Test a solution to New Zealand crowd’s apathy?
“To keep the crowd interested, there will be plenty of other activities in the Eden Park’s Outer Oval – like a fan-zone, food stalls, night markets, kids’ corner and so on. There will also be a big screen so that fans don’t miss any of the action out in the middle while grabbing a meat pie from one of the eateries”.
In New Zealand, Test cricket is not exactly the most popular format. Attracting the Kiwi crowds to the watch the purest form of the game has become a treacherous uphill battle for the organizers and it is not a secret anymore. In Blackcaps’ last outing in a home Test, against the West Indies just before the Christmas, only 3,500 people turned up across four days at Seddon Park in Hamilton. The match, in fact, started on a weekend.
Due to this apathy of spectators towards red-ball cricket, organizing a Test match in New Zealand is becoming more and more financially challenging for NZC (New Zealand Cricket), which is currently recovering from a US$9.3 million financial loss in the past year. In fact, apart from the big three – India, England and Australia – for most home boards, staging a single Test match make a net loss of over US$500,000. Probably, that’s why NZC, earlier this summer, decided to scrap one Test against West Indies.
Now, as New Zealand are all set to host its maiden day-night Test in Auckland’s Eden Park, that too against a high-profile team like England, the organizers are hoping for a better response from the local crowd.
But the question is, will playing into the night lead to an improvement in the numbers?
Well, according to local media reports ticket sales for the Auckland match have been steady and hopes are high, but we won’t know until the match gets underway. Remember, in the crowd, there will be a significant number of travelling Barmy Army members as well. So, even if the numbers reach the expected mark, there will be concern regarding the actual number of local supporters, who chose to attend this historic fixture.
However, NZC is certainly making quite the effort to attract people for this particular game. They desperately want this experiment of day-night Test to work, financially. Many insiders consider that this is NZC’s final chance to revive Test cricket at home. Otherwise, in order to sustain, they need to cut down the number of home Tests — a situation, which nobody wants.
Hence, NZC is going all-out to make this concept work.
A marketing campaign for this game reads: “No-one needs a sick-note to attend this one. No need to wag school either. That’s right – we’re playing this test at a time you can actually watch it”.
The hours of play each day are from 2 pm to 4 pm, 4.20 pm to 6.20 pm, and 7 pm to 9 pm. Furthermore, there are cheaper tickets on offer for those who can’t make the first session.
To keep the crowd interested, there will be plenty of other activities in the Eden Park’s Outer Oval – like a fan-zone, food stalls, night markets, kids’ corner and so on. There will also be a big screen so that fans don’t miss any of the action out in the middle while grabbing a meat pie from one of the eateries.
“We wouldn’t ever want to suggest that the main item on the agenda isn’t cricket, and we’re not trying to make this into something that detracts from what’s going on in the middle, because I’m sure that’s going to be the priority for everyone and the centre of attention, but there’s a whole lot of events within events, and because it’s the evening, there’s more opportunity,” said NZC’s public affairs manager Richard Boock.
New Zealand haven’t beaten England in a Test match at home since 2008. So, for Kane Williamson and his boys, it will be a stiff challenge at Eden Park to make their presence felt in red-ball cricket against a top opponent. Sententiously, off the field, financially, there will plenty at stake for NZC in this particular fixture. This is the game, which can actually set the course for the future of Test cricket in New Zealand.
Hence, the admirers of New Zealand cricket should hope for action-packed five days, both on and off the field.