COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s captain Kumar Sangakkara has urged world cricket chiefs to win back fans to Test and one-day games with a balanced international calendar that gives equal opportunities to all teams.
Sangakkara said global viewership of the sport had dwindled over the past year, despite a packed schedule of Tests, one-dayers and Twenty20 cricket.
“I am told about 40 percent of viewership has dropped for Tests,” Sangakkara said in an interview. “It has dropped for one-dayers and T20 too.”
According to Sangakkara the rise of Twenty20 cricket has made the ODIs and Test games look like the boring siblings of the cricket family.
Sangakkara, 32, welcomed suggestions for jazzing up Test cricket through night games or a world championship, which could attract viewers and sponsors.
“We can’t just ignore the consumers,” he said. “Ultimately its sponsorship that generates revenue for the boards.”
The articulate Sri Lankan skipper called for more Test matches to be fairly distributed in the Future Tours Programme (FTP) that is being prepared by the International Cricket Council to govern cricket from 2012.
He lamented the lack of Test matches for his own team, which would have played just two matches against the West Indies this year had India not agreed to a hastily arranged three-Test series against Sri Lanka.
“All sides should have an equal opportunity to play Tests,” Sangakkara said.
“We are lucky India are touring us, but the opportunity for Sri Lankan players to fulfil their Test dreams are getting more and more limited.”
Sri Lanka have not played a Test series outside South Asia since the tour of Australia in 2007. They have not been to South Africa for a Test tour since 2002 and the Tests in England in 2011 will be their first there in five years.
“The FTP must be drawn up in a way that some of the best sides tour more than just once in five years,” Sangakkara said. “They should be meaningful tours that also makes economic sense.”
He said the new FTP should also make room for the hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL), which until now has been squeezed in between gaps in the international calendar.
“We need a proper FTP to avoid players having to choose between their country and commercial interests. A proper FTP will focus on competitive tours, on nations competing with each other, ultimately making it attractive for consumers.”
The IPL’s fourth edition is scheduled to be held soon after the 50-over World Cup ends in South Asia in April, raising fears of an overkill for fans.
Sangakkara was unsure how the IPL will be received next year. “That’s why I say we need a proper FTP so that there is no fan fatigue,” he said.