What is Bad Light meaning in Cricket: Why do bad light stops play in Test Cricket?

Test Cricket has a lot of intricate facets associated with it which are not straightforward for the general public to comprehend. One such aspect of this game is the time that is lost due to the bad light in cricket. A game that is played over five days, has found hard to hold relevance in the current times. And in such a scenario, the stoppage of play due to bad light is retarding the growth of the format on a global level.

The World Test Championship Final 2021 between India and New Zealand saw multiple stoppages in play throughout the Test match due to Bad light rule. The play in the England vs India first Test at Nottingham was also stopped due to bad light in the afternoon session on Day 2.

Let's take a detailed look at the bad light and its meaning in cricket:


What is Bad light meaning in Cricket?

Being an outdoor sport, Cricket is expected to be played in the presence of natural light. However, at times, the weather conditions are dark and gloomy which makes it difficult for the players to sight the ball. The red ball is not easy to pick in dark and requires an optimum level of brightness to be sighted while coming at some speed. As a result, umpires, often tend to stop the play and wait for the light to improve and before the play can be resumed.


Under what conditions can an umpire declare bad light?
Light Meter to check the bad light
The umpire checks the bad light using the light meter

The bad light is estimated using a light meter. Usually in Test matches, when the light is deteriorating, umpires use the light meter and assume a reading which is unfit for the play to continue. This reading is regarded as the reference for the rest of the Test match. If at any time, the light meter reading falls below the reference, the play is stopped.

Earlier, umpires often consulted the batters if they could sight the ball properly even in the deteriorating light conditions. They would take a batter's word and could even ask the opposition captain to bowl their spinners instead of pacers for the play to continue.


Why do bad light stops play in Test Cricket?
Bad Light Stops play in Cricket
Bad light is deemed unfit for the play to continue (Image Source: Getty Images)

Test Cricket is played with a hard red ball which is delivered to the batters at a high speed. If the ball is not sighted properly, it can even cause physical injuries to the batters, wicket-keeper, and the close-in fielders. As a result, it is considered advisable for the play to stop until the light is deemed fit for the game to continue. Umpires show no half measures in even suspending the remaining day's play if they feel the light isn't improving as the players' safety is the utmost priority.


Why is there an uproar about the bad light rule?
Bad lights denied England a win vs Pakistan in 2015
England was denied a win after play was called off in Abu Dhabi due to bad light (Image Source: AFP)

There is a lot of uncertainty around the law about the bad light in Test cricket. What is the cut-off reading for the umpires to suspend the game is subjective? There is also a question about how long should the umpires wait before they suspend the day's play if they don't find any improvement in the natural light. In countries like England where weather is largely unpredictable, the light can improve even after the play has been called off due to bad light.

Commentators and cricket experts have suggested in the past that ICC should devise ways for the play to continue via the help of floodlights. Most former cricketers are also of the view to do away with the time lost in the game solely due to the bad light concerns. There have been instances in the past where teams have been denied wins due to bad light calls.