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Sri Lanka Cricket opposes two-tier Test system

Sri Lanka Cricket has outlined its strong opposition to the proposed two-tier Test system, claiming that it "can't see any benefit for Sri Lankan cricket, the game, or the players". SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala also voiced concerns over the financial ramifications of a potential tiered system, and believed the current path towards full membership and Test status for Associate sides was adequate.

The proposal to split Test cricket into two tiers - with seven nations in tier one, and five, including two new Test nations, in the second tier - was mooted at the ICC's annual conference, in Edinburgh. BCB president Nazmul Hassan had said Bangladesh was the only country to oppose the proposed system, but SLC officials said Sri Lanka was one of two boards in opposition.

In any case, Sumathipala spoke strongly against a move from the status quo, in which ten nations have full membership and Test status. Sri Lanka is currently seventh in the Test rankings with 85 points, ahead of West Indies, in eighth position with 65.

"Sri Lanka Cricket has decided not to support two-tier Test cricket as we have decided it's detrimental to SLC and for its future," Sumathipala said. "We feel that to make it a top seven - you are virtually relegating the bottom three to a different level."

The revenue-sharing details within the proposed system have not yet been worked out, but there has been the suggestion that all matches within the proposed structure be sold in one block, as part of a centralised broadcasting agreement. Another option might be for the ICC to pay a competition grant, which would cover the costs of every nation's Test fixtures within the structure. Sumathipala, however, was skeptical of how such a financial model might work.

"We believe that if you are a Full Member, there can't be two tiers. One of the reasons is to maintain sustainability of the economy of cricket. If India goes to eighth position, what happens?"

The primary aims of a two-tier system are to provide stronger context for Test matches, a merit-based promotion and relegation system, and to create a clear pathway to Test status for Associate nations. SLC had helped lobby for Bangladesh to be granted Test status, in 2000, and Sumathipala said that pathway remained available and adequate for any aspiring Test side.

"If someone wants to come up - they can come up, that's no problem. That's the way Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka came up. But that doesn't mean that anyone should go down. If you want to take the Test level that is a different effort that you must make. We did that for Bangladesh and it's a very successful story."

The board did, however, support a separate but equally radical change to the game - that of four-day Tests. The suggestion that Tests should ideally be played over four days consisting of 100 overs each has been around for some time, and had recently been advanced by ECB chairman Colin Graves.

"We strongly believe that in years to come we should encourage four-day Test cricket," Sumathipala said. "We believe it's going to be strong and effective. With the pink ball coming up and day-night facilities coming in, you can easily extend the day another 45 minutes and play a four-day Test comprising of 400 overs."