Melbourne, Apr.9 : Australian cricketers have been offered a 50 percent increase in match fees if they agree to play day and night Tests.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said players could expect handsome financial benefits if Tests could be staged under lights, a concept that is heavily dependent on the development of a ball that can not only be seen by the batsmen but also withstand 80 overs.
Cricket Australia is instigating scientific research to find an appropriate ball and to determine which venues could host Tests at night, but in the meantime Sutherland said he was encouraged by the result in a survey conducted by the Australian Cricketers' Association, in which 32 per cent of contracted players supported day-night Test matches "subject to authorities finding a suitable ball and addressing any issues with dew etc".
While a clear majority of players are still opposed to playing Test cricket under lights, Sutherland said the response was "a clear indication to me that this has legs".
"Imagine if the question had asked whether players would support day-night Tests if it meant a 50 per cent increase in match fees," Sutherland said.
This would be the flow-on benefit to the players if half of each day's play was held in prime viewing time, reports The Herald.
"The TV networks we have talked to about this, here and on the other side of the world, are very excited about it. Australia is in a bad time zone for selling TV rights and if Test matches started a little bit later it would have an incredible impact," Sutherland claimed.
Test and first-class players share a 25 per cent slice of Cricket Australia revenue, with Test players earning 12,750 dollars a game on top of their retainers.
ACA CEO Paul Marsh said the survey response signalled a big shift from the initial opposition among players to day-night Tests when the idea was floated by Sutherland in December.
"Players understand that day-night Test cricket could be exciting and also financially beneficial for the game. They are, however, concerned that the game's integrity may be affected and administrators will need to ensure the operational issues are overcome and tested in first-class match conditions before introducing [them] into Test cricket," said Marsh.
Marsh said the two major obstacles to staging Tests under lights - developing a ball that lasts and the meteorological conditions - remained "big ifs", but Sutherland wants to host day-night Tests within three years.
Interestingly, the survey also showed overwhelming support for greater use of technology in umpiring decisions, with 84 per cent of CA-contracted players and 71 per cent of state players in favour after a summer of contentious umpiring decisions.
The ICC will trial a challenge system similar to the one used in tennis at the Champions Trophy later this year and Sutherland said CA was open to a "good, simple process" aimed at eliminating "clangers" from the game.
Umpiring is a hot issue for Australian players, with 83 per cent arguing umpires should be able to officiate in home Tests, and 61 per cent saying the ICC's decision to stand down Jamaican umpire Steve Bucknor, after India loudly complained about his performance in the Sydney Test, created a dangerous precedent.
In a strong endorsement of Australian umpires, 65 per cent of players said the standard of decision-making in state cricket was "good".