Day-night Test cricket failed to attract fans in the UAE.
While the organisers had hoped to attract fans for the match after work hours, the stands were deserted even on a Friday.
There could be two reasons to this.
Firstly, Test cricket is not attractive to fans here since they prefer the quicker versions of the game.
Secondly, for the working population here, to spend time at a cricket stadium till 11pm on working days is not attractive, especially watching a Test match played over five days.
Though a lot was talked about the pink ball, none seemed interested to be part of a historic day.
It was a pity that Azhar Ali was playing that epic triple century in front of an empty stadium with only as many people as his score clapping for him on his way back to the pavilion!
Innovations take time to win over fans, but the first reaction by fans here hasn’t been positive.
A look at the history of cricket in the UAE clearly reveals that fans have only backed limited over versions of the game.
That explains why the Sharjah Cricket Stadium figures as the stadium having hosted the maximum number of One-dayers in world cricket, and the Dubai International stadium has staged the maximum number of Twenty20 matches.
It is also likely that fans may have come to watch the day-night Test match had the West Indies put up a good show in the just concluded Twenty20 and One Day International series against Pakistan.
This only goes to prove that Test matches, whatever time it be played, must have teams made of class players, with the standard of cricket being high enough to attract crowds.
A Test match must be evenly contested with an excellent battle between the bat and ball.
This Test was also Pakistan’s 400th Test match. While reporting their 300th Test match in Multan, India’s Virendra Sehwag had cracked a triple century, like Ali did here. But the Multan match was a regular one and the stadium was packed to the brim. So whether it is a day-night or day Test match, an India-Pakistan Test match or an Australia-England match will always draw big crowds.
It’s commendable that the International Cricket Council is trying out innovative ideas. Day-night Test matches and the pink ball are both experiments and they may stumble upon something attractive in the process. One-day cricket and T20 were all born out of such experiments.
Fans spend money and want entertainment, and if players on the field are entertainers like Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers or spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin and Yasir Shah, people will come to the ground, whether day or night. Test cricket needs more of such players to back these experiments.