Hey! Mommy they are murdering Test cricketView(s):
One evening last week I happened to be in the company of a beautiful cricket speaking lady whose interests extended also to Greek sculpture, Tchaikovsky and the Beatles. Yet, by bed time what took the train of thought in my mind was not the relaxing idlechat with the nice lady, but, an article by a disturbed veteran, West Indian journalist Tony Cozier, that morning.
He was talking about the Lankan and West Indian cricket authorities undercutting their ICC listed Future Tours Programme (FTP) Test commitments to pave the way for the Indian Premier League, where the majority of their cricketers make a living, giving it priority.
Cozier was visibly perturbed by officials doing away with the home Test series to enable the Indian authorities to go ahead with the IPL from April 3 to May 26. The two-Test, three-ODI and two-T20 series was just overlapping the IPL dates.
As much as the Lankans there are a host of current West Indian players, including the charismatic Chris Gayle, who are deeply involved with the IPL and are definitely also huge providers of TV ratings to any team that they are involved with. The IPL may not be the same without the names of players in the calibre of Chris Gayle, Lasith Malinga and Dwayne Bravo being touted in their advertisements.
So the involvement of the West Indian players in a Test series with Sri Lanka which is dependent on Indian handouts may not be to the liking of IPL organisers. Now with the Indian involvement and blessings, the FTP will go on, but without the two Tests and instead there will be a very lucrative tri-series that will also involve India.
Reports claim that the request for the tri-series had come from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). The dates were given as June 13-25 but, as they would conflict with the ICC’s Champions Trophy ODI matches in England from June 6-23, they are likely be adjusted.
In his article, Cozier also lashed out at Sri Lanka saying, “It is the second time Sri Lanka have chosen to give the IPL priority over Tests. They declined to be a replacement after Zimbabwe’s scheduled series in England in May 2009 was cancelled for political reasons. The West Indies filled in instead. The latest adjustment highlights the dilemma the global proliferation of Twenty20 tournaments poses to the ICC.”
As far as we know this is not the second time that the Lankan authorities have shunned Test cricket. Even the recent ODI series against India was originally to be a three-Test series. But, the big brother next door did not want to play the game in its longer duration and the little guys at home meekly accepted scraps instead.
Even in 2006, the Lankan authorities agreed with New Zealand to scrap the third Test match of a three-match series and played two T20s instead. A disappointed Cozier also bemoaned, “At its (ICC’s) June meeting in London, its cricket committee agreed that international cricket, being the lifeblood of the world game, needs the ICC to play a leadership role to protect and promote international cricket. The key is how it handles its relationships with the IPL and other such tournaments.”
Now the question is where do countries like Sri Lanka perch their Test cricket. Remember, Sri Lanka has some of the proudest stats in contemporary Test cricket which include the highest Test score and the highest Test wicket taker in history in Muttiah Muralitharan, who finished his career bagging his 800th wicket against India in Galle.
You talk to any international cricketer, including Kumar Sangakkara, and they will readily agree that Test Cricket is the pinnacle and the purest form of the game, and they enjoy being part of that segment of cricket the most. Ironically, when it comes to practice this importance dwindles. A country like Sri Lanka will readily swap a Test series for ODIs or T20s just because it will bring in more revenue.
In England, South Africa and Australia, Test cricket is still very healthy. The just-concluded England-South Africa Test series was well patronised. The stadiums were full. The quality of cricket was of a high standard. So much so that I preferred to watch the proceedings of that series when the SLPL was being played in Sri Lanka. As for me there was a huge contrast in the quality of cricket displayed on the two channels.
Even a cricket doyen like former Sri Lanka captain Michael Tissera, who knows a thing or two more than the general sahibs about cricket, is perturbed by the tendency to give less importance to Test Cricket. He is of the view that the ICC should be more earnest about its stance on the game and be more serious about the FTP. It should be more specific about the FTP and how it is utilised by member countries. Generally, a Full-Member tour means there would be a specific number of Test matches included in the itinerary.
At this point Tissera feels that the ICC should be more responsible and make sure that the Test segment of the tour is played. That’s the segment of cricket that is in danger especially in countries like Sri Lanka where rupees rule the strokes. India on the other hand may tell or encourage countries like Sri Lanka to swap their Test matches with limited over games if the prevailing spot is a bother to India’s comfort. Yet, when India wants they will request a country like Australia to extend a four-Test tour to cherish the golden traditions of Test cricket that produced their Gavaskars and the Tendulkars.
However at the same time we feel that in an occasion of that nature even the ICC is hapless or helpless. How can an organisation which cannot even convince India to take up one of its best innovations – the Decision Review System — force them not to influence poor boards like the WICB and the SLC?
Yet, we feel if this trend becomes a practice, very soon Test cricket in cash-strapped countries like Sri Lanka is going to be a thing of the past. We feel that even the majority of the players would prefer to play in the IPL rather than playing a Test match for Sri Lanka.
Finally we see that a toothless general is as good as the doorman in the kingdom.
PS: Whatever its stance on Test Cricket by the ICC, we salute its stern stand with journos. We wonder why the press was wailing for the treatment that got while covering the warm-ups. Just see the LG awards. They invited the fourth estate to be in the Kennel and bark from there while the masters had the ball upstairs.
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