Indian Premier League 2010 March 2, 2010

Test cricket must go day-night to survive - Modi

Cricinfo staff

Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, has said it is vital for Test cricket to shift to the day-night format and become more broadcaster friendly in order to ensure its survival amid the burgeoning popularity of Twenty20, which he believes will "become the dominant format - without doubt".

"I am a great supporter of Test cricket. People say I'm not but I also run the marketing department of the BCCI and Test cricket is extremely important to us," Modi told the Guardian. "All I am trying to do is remind people that we live in a modern age and Test cricket has a big problem: it is played in the daytime when most people are working."

Administrators, according to Modi, should embrace every opportunity to attract more viewers to Tests and playing it day-night was an effective way of doing so. "If you take it to day-night, then people can watch it on TV when they get home from work - or they can go to the stadium. There has been a big drop in Test cricket viewing [outside England and the Ashes] and it's because people don't have the leisure time in the day to watch it."

Modi believes that the five-day format will fizzle out unless there is a change in its timings because the broadcaster will not be interested it in. "Whether we like it or not, broadcasting determines whether a game survives. Without broadcasters you don't have money to pay players or keep the sport alive. You don't need to fiddle with the format at this stage. All you need do is change the timing. If we went day-night then we would see a real resurgence in the ratings. Look at Twenty20. It has gone to night cricket and the viewership has exploded."

Modi said the Twenty20 format - three hours for a game - was the ideal vehicle for cricket to compete with football and other sports for new consumers and markets. His aim is to make the IPL the "dominant sporting league in the world" across all sports.

"We are only a two-year-old league but we had close to 3.8 billion eyeballs last year. Every game last year we had 100 million eyeballs," he said. "But because our objective is to become the most watched sporting event in the world we are now targeting 150m every day."

Modi believes that the IPL could develop an edge over English Premier League football because, unlike the most popular league in the world, its unique model was based on team equality and therefore was unpredictable.

"Look, my son is a Manchester United fan and I'm a Chelsea fan - and I was very upset to see my team lose [last Saturday]," he said. "But, normally, we know exactly what is going to happen. My son and I know that nine times out 10 either Man U or Chelsea is going to win it. The Premier League is basically so predictable. I wanted to base my league on an unpredictable model - so we don't have a Man U or a Chelsea in the IPL.

"If you look at our ratings, all 59 games in the IPL last year were within a 5% margin of each other in ratings. That has never happened in any other league in the world. From a broadcaster's or advertiser's point of view this is a dream because, when they buy a match, or advertising, they know they are going to get value for money. The other key point is that 52 out of those 59 matches went down to the wire. No one knew who was going to win until the final stages.

"Our model works but a lot of English football clubs are going under. Look at Portsmouth going bankrupt. With the next auction we might have even more surprising figures and people coming into the IPL."