January 4, 2024

I would retire if pink balls become bad light solution: Khawaja

By Malcolm Conn and Tom Decent
January 4, 2024 — 7.45pm
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Veteran opener Usman Khawaja says he would quit Test cricket if a pink ball was used permanently after yet another Sydney Test was affected by bad light and rain delays.

“If it is, I’m retiring,” Khawaja said after play was stopped midway through the second day of the third Test against Pakistan. At stumps, Australia were 2-116 in reply to Pakistan’s 313. Khawaja scored 47 in 143 balls on Thursday.

Former players and administrators have called for a pink ball to be used under floodlights in overcast conditions to prevent bad light stopping play, as it has at times in Sydney during much of the past decade. Four of the last five Sydney Tests have been weather-marred draws.

“The red ball is so distinct,” Khawaja said. I’ve played white ball, I’ve played pink ball, I’ve played red ball. They all react so differently. Nothing reacts like that red ball. How they make it, the dye they put on it.”

Khawaja claimed that the impact of the weather was part of the tradition of Test cricket going back more than a century.

“The red ball is what we grew up playing with,” Khawaja said. “The red ball is Test cricket, right? So unless you can find a way to replicate the sun, the lights aren’t the same.

Bad light stopped play at the SCG on Thursday.Credit: Getty Images

“The lights shining on a red ball is still really hard to see, whereas a pink ball is a lot better, but it doesn’t react the same as red. And this is my argument. The beauty of Test cricket and what I love about Test cricket is it really hasn’t changed a lot in the last 100 years.

“So I think the game hasn’t changed. I think people maybe are just getting a little bit more impatient. It sucks, but that’s Test cricket, unfortunately. And when it rains or when you have bad light, you just have cop it. You have five days of cricket to get a result. I still think there’ll be a result in this game.”


Khawaja’s stance came as Cricket Australia chairman Mike Baird said Test cricket had to find a solution to bad light delays. Most of the crowd of 30,038 left after play was stopped because of bad light, with rain later washing out the day’s play.

“It’s very frustrating. We have to address it,” Baird told this masthead without elaborating.

However sources close to Cricket Australia, who requested anonymity to speak freely, suggested that solutions could include a $10 million upgrade of the SCG lights and the use of pink balls.

Before departing as SCG Trust chairman last year, Tony Shepherd called for the use of pink balls during the Pink Test, which raises money for the McGrath Foundation, after weather forced the match against South Africa to be drawn. He repeated the call on Thursday.

“I think they ought to have a good look at the light question,” Shepherd told this masthead. “To stop the play today because of bad light is bullshit. Switch to a pink ball … and keep the game going.”

Shepherd dismissed concerns about teams being advantaged or disadvantaged. “If the wicket breaks up, it gives one team an advantage,” he said. “That’s normal.”


Former England captain Michael Vaughan earlier questioned the decision to have players leave the field.

“Is it that dangerous?” Vaughan asked on Fox Cricket. “Come on. One of my bugbears of Test cricket is we seem to find a way to get off the pitch at any opportunity.

“T20 cricket, 50-over cricket, you just stay out there, you go through with it. It’s an entertainment business. It’s not a threat to the batsmen. You might get out and play a poor shot. I haven’t seen one shot where Marnus [Labuschagne] or Steve Smith have looked and [thought] I haven’t picked that up out of the hand.

“I can’t stand this happening in the game of Test cricket, the greatest format. It’s so frustrating for everyone. Can’t we just carry on? Don’t you just have a box of pink balls?”

Former Australian champion paceman Glenn McGrath said using a pink ball was “not a bad idea.”

“It’s all about keeping the game going,” McGrath said on Channel Seven. “We’ve got 25,000 plus people sitting in the crowd, it’s not raining, fair enough it’s a little overcast, but they want to see a game of cricket.”

However, Australian captain Pat Cummins was not in favour of using a different kind of ball.

“Like anything, it’s about fairness of the game,” Cummins said on Fox Sports. “If you’re changing balls around, it’s really hard to keep that fair for both teams.”

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Malcolm Conn is Chief Cricket Writer.Connect via Twitter or email.
Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning HeraldConnect via Twitter or email.


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