'Stop overkill of cricket on TV' - Sangakkara
Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, has called for several changes to increase the popularity of five-day cricket, including paying Test players significantly more and not broadcasting the game in the city hosting the game until a large crowd turns up at the ground. Speaking on Cricinfo's video show Opening Up, Sangakkara also said every country should have an iconic series like the Ashes to draw spectators to the stadiums.
There has been plenty of talk over the decline of Tests, but Sangakkara said it was premature to write the format's obituary. "Everyone is talking about Test cricket dying. Maybe we are pre-empting its death and trying to kill it before its time," he said. "When it comes to players, they value playing the five-day version a lot more than they do any other version."
With a lot more money on offer in lucrative Twenty20 leagues such as the IPL, he stated that salaries of Test specialists should be hiked substantially. "Paying a match fee for playing a Test match that is 10% more than for a Twenty20, or a one-day game or 50% more doesn't cut it," he said. "Test cricket should be given its premium position by paying a premium amount for players who play only Test cricket sometimes."
Test cricket is packing stadiums only in England and a handful of cities over the world, something which Sangakkara felt could change if there were changes in way television broadcasted the game. "Stop overkill of cricket on television. We can't have 24-hour cricket channels and still expect people to come and watch it at the ground," he said. "Not telecasting the match to a particular city until they have an acceptable crowd at the ground [as they do in Australia is the right thing to do]."
The Ashes have been one series which have been extremely well attended, with many grounds being sold out in advance, which indicated the way forward for Tests, according to Sangakkara. "Have iconic Test series for every country, like the Ashes for England and Australia. Have one for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - it draws the crowds to the grounds."
There have been plenty of exciting Test matches over the past few years, including the memorable South African victory in Australia, England hanging on to nail-biting draws in three Tests, and India retaining the No. 1 ranking after a win with nine deliveries to spare in Kolkata last month in the face of a Hashim Amla masterclass. Sangakkara said players must dish out exciting cricket to gets fans to show up. "We have to accept the fact that we play because we are watched, we are entertainers - we can call ourselves gladiators," he said. "At the end of the day we entertain and we like to play in front of a crowd. To get the crowd we have to be responsible enough to play entertaining cricket."
He also spoke of his team's ambitions to correct some of the blots in Sri Lanka's Test record, such as their record against Australia and their performances on tours to India. "We want to win against Australia, we want to beat India in India. Those are the things we talk about as players, and these opportunities don't come if we don't play Test cricket," he said. "If Test cricket is going to be relegated as the third format of the game, behind Twenty20 and one-day cricket, then I think it will be a very sad day for cricket."