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News

Mathews says Sri Lanka not getting enough Tests, especially this year

"Everyone's talking about Test cricket dying, but we're not doing any good for Test cricket playing only five Tests a year"

"Unfortunate that we are not playing too many Test matches this year - it's as few as five"  •  AFP/Getty Images

"Unfortunate that we are not playing too many Test matches this year - it's as few as five"  •  AFP/Getty Images

Angelo Mathews has taken aim at the Test-match schedule Sri Lanka has been lumped with. His complaint: Sri Lanka will not play enough Tests, particularly this year.
This, despite there being an outside chance that Sri Lanka could play in the World Test Championship final, so long as Australia win or draw their last Test against India, and Sri Lanka beat New Zealand 2-0, in New Zealand. These remain unlikely outcomes, even though both Australia and Sri Lanka have had good days with the bat on Thursday.
But Mathews essentially asks what value the cricket world places in Tests any more, if the scheduling is so lopsided.
"Unfortunate that we are not playing too many Test matches this year - it's as few as five," he said, on the day he became Sri Lanka's third-highest Test scorer, in Christchurch. "We are coming off a long layoff - the last Test was six months back." Mathews is correct that there are only five Tests on the schedule for Sri Lanka in 2023 (two against New Zealand, two against Pakistan, and one against Ireland, who are not WTC opposition just yet).
He is not correct on how long it's been since Sri Lanka's last Test before this one. It has been seven months.
"Everyone's talking about Test cricket dying, but we're not doing any good for Test cricket playing only five Tests a year. Hopefully we'll get more matches this year. Five feels like not enough."
In fact, right through the WTC cycle to follow this one, Sri Lanka are not scheduled to play a single three-Test series. Meanwhile, India, Australia and England routinely play five-Test series against each other through the same period. At the worst, they play four-Test series.
The WTC structure requires the teams that qualify to play an equal number of WTC series between each other through the course of the cycle. But aside from India, England and Australia (the Big Three), most other sides play two-Test series, except when they play one of the Big Three sides, when they may have a three-Test encounter on the books.
Jason Holder and Anrich Nortje - currently playing a two-Test series in South Africa - had also voiced how every team apart from the Big Three were barely playing any Tests these days.

MCC on lopsided cricket schedules: Need 'more equitable spread of international cricket'

The MCC, the keeper of the laws of the game, also turned the spotlight on pain points in the cricket calendar on Thursday. Specifically the encroachment of franchise leagues, and - in a theme reflecting Mathews' words - the imbalance in the amount of men's cricket played among various Full Members.
"The MCC World Cricket committee (WCC), who recently met in Dubai, unanimously concluded that the game has reached an important crossroads, recommending urgent intervention from the game's leaders to ensure international and franchise cricket can thrive together harmoniously," the MCC's statement read.
"Also notable in the new men's FTP [Future Tours Programme] is an alarming and growing disparity in the amount of international cricket played by a minority of member nations compared to others; a situation which is clearly neither equitable nor sustainable."
The current men's FTP runs till 2027, meaning there is little wriggle room in rearranging series, but the MCC called on the ICC to review things thereafter. It said that the global governing body needed to reinvest some of the money coming into the game to help members struggling financially with the costs of hosting international cricket. "The men's FTP is now fixed until 2027 but the WCC is calling on ICC to look at the next cycle of tournaments and international cricket, and challenge its Full Member nations to ensure a more equitable spread of international cricket.
"The ICC is increasing its revenues through the next broadcast cycle, as a result of the introduction of a men's and women's white-ball global event every year. Consequently, the WCC would like to see some of that additional revenue being ring-fenced to members to support the strategic ambitions of the game. Primary focus should be on becoming the global game of choice for women and girls, and assisting with the costs of staging international cricket, which runs at a loss for several countries."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf