Test cricket the sacrificial lamb for a few dollars more | Daily News

Test cricket the sacrificial lamb for a few dollars more

A cursory glance at the itinerary released by Sri Lanka Cricket for South Africa’s cricket tour here in July-August gives one the impression that the SLC is rather keen to make a few extra bucks at the expense of a Test match. Test cricket for them is the sacrificial lamb. So instead of a three-Test series with the current second ranked Test team in the world that would have given our cricketers the much needed exposure at top level we are confining ourselves to playing just two Tests with them with the third Test being traded for a five-match One-Day International series and a one-off T20 international.

The reasons for the change is quite obvious as Sri Lanka Cricket knows that they can never make a profit out of Tests especially playing against a country like South Africa that does not have the same draw card magnetism in this country as India, England, Australia and Pakistan. Apart from these four nations the rest of the full ICC members are commercial losses to Sri Lanka Cricket. Thus if Sri Lanka Cricket is looking at the tour from a profitable point of view then the changes made to the itinerary are quite acceptable but from a long term perspective it would have its repercussions on the up and coming players and their future.

Fifty-over cricket and Twenty20 cricket may draw the spectators and fill in the coffers and the stands but it is not the answer to forming a formidable team to beat all and sundry. Test cricket is the base for all the other innovations of cricket that has now come to surface and is affecting the growth of a cricket nation. Countries like Bangladesh who gained Test status in 2000 have still not come to terms at the highest level. Now with the advent of newcomers like Ireland and Afghanistan to the Test fold one dread to think how far they can compete as a Test nation when the international calendar is overloaded with limited-over cricket – T20s and fifty-overs.

Sri Lanka has been competitive at Test level only to a point. They have yet to win a Test match in Australia and in India having been a full member for the past 36 years. They have never reached the Test ranking above third place and the reasons for that are twofold. One is that they don’t play Test cricket regularly as other countries do for a year and two, is sacrificing Tests to play one-day matches. The last time it happened was also against South Africa in 2013 where a three-Test series was replaced by a two-Test and the tour split in two - the first two play five ODIs and three T20Is and the second to play two Tests.

Sri Lanka Cricket cannot have the cake and eat it, either they must balance the number of Tests and one-day matches played during a year or forget about the nation ever becoming a force in Test cricket. If money is their prime concern then we will see the death of Test cricket very shortly in this country, which if it happens will be the saddest day for Sri Lanka cricket.

For years the country fought a losing battle with the ICC to obtain Test status until a messiah came in the form of late Minister Gamini Dissanayake who eventually managed to convince the ICC hierarchy that Sri Lanka should be admitted as a full member of the ICC which they finally achieved in June 1981. However with the winning of the Cricket World Cup in 1996 and subsequently the World T20 in 2014, successive cricket administrations have leaned heavily towards filling the coffers at the expense of Test matches.

This is certainly not a good sign. With Test cricket being threatened globally by the influx of T20 matches not only by bilateral series and tournaments but also by each full member trying to ape the Indian Premier League (IPL) by having their own version of it, it is imperative that countries like Sri Lanka don’t forego Test cricket for the sake of trying to make every tour to this country a profitable venture.

Sri Lanka is due to commence their own version of the IPL by hosting a Lankan Premier League (LPL) in August and September this year. The only one they hosted in 2012 fell flat on its face after franchises breached payment deadlines. How far and successful the scheduled one will go is a matter of conjecture.

However the bottom line is that Test cricket cannot and should not be traded with ODIs and T20Is but given its due place in the international calendar. There is a cry that Test cricket worldwide is dying because of countries like Sri Lanka who are prepared to sell it down the river for a fast buck.


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