Sangakkara: A lot needs to be done to market Test cricket

Sangakkara feels that contests like Sydney are important for the longer format of the game, and also admits that it is important for Test cricket to stay relevant and exciting.

Kumar Sangakkara wants all the stakeholders to work hard to ensure that Test cricket maintains its pride and prestige.   -  AP Photo

As Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin fought hard to earn a draw against Australia in the third Test on Monday, former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara did keep an eye on the proceedings.

A cricketing icon and one of the finest ambassadors of Test cricketers, Sangakkara was excited to see the way Vihari and Ashwin kept the home team at bay and earned a draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

While he feels that such contests are important for the longer format of the game, Sangakkara also admits that it is important for Test cricket to stay relevant and exciting.

“There is a huge affinity around the world in terms of love and passion for Test cricket. There is a responsibility for players; those who are good enough to play Test cricket, those who are representing their countries in Test cricket - who have an ambition to go into the record books as players you can play any format - to play Test cricket in a manner that’s exciting. Play the game in a manner that inspires and helps to sustain the Test format,” Sangakkara said on Monday.

Read | India's injury woes give Australia edge going into 4th Test: Ponting  

Interacting with the scribes as the mentor of the Abu Dhabi team in the T10 League - which begins later this month - Sangakkara said that all the stakeholders need to work hard to ensure that Test cricket maintains its pride and prestige.

“Various batsmen and bowlers around the world are excited to play red ball cricket and fans talk about them, appreciate them. But a lot needs to be done in terms of marketing Test cricket, in terms of relevant Test competitions and series and ensuring that they are framed in the interesting context. At the end of the day, for any format to survive, it has to stay relevant. Anything that’s not relevant usually dies and is forgotten. Test cricket needs to rise to the challenges,” Sangakkara, who is the head of the MCC, said.

“The home boards, the ICC and even the franchise owners, have to put their heads together and see how all the formats can co-exist…”

On the future of Tests

“I did read about the India-Australia Test in the news and it was an exciting finish with Vihari and Ashwin holding the Aussies at bay in the final session and walking away with the draw,” Sangakkara said.

“Cricket is for everyone - it is a large cross-section of people with different likes and dislikes. People who have been brought up on the game, watching Test matches appreciating the real test of playing the five-day format - physically, mentally, your courage, technique, everything being on display - to them, it is sacrilegious that a format like T10 or T20s exist.

"But at the same time, you will have a large cross section of people since the advent of the T20 leagues, who don’t have that intense and intimate connection with the heritage, history and culture of Test cricket. And the world is changing,” Sangakkara said.

Also read | A rearguard action in Sydney that keeps Test flame burning  

“The newer generation is a little more insistent on instant gratification and it is wonderful to see cricket has not been treated as an old man’s game or a game just for the purists. It is continuously growing across formats and feeding the passion, appetite for entertainment sports across the world. The only thing that we have to be careful of is that it does not happen at the cost of another format, but it is in some way beneficial to the longevity of the formats like Test cricket,” he said.

Talking about the time when scoring a run or two in an over was considered a thumb rule, Sangakkara said: “You can see that from old days when scoring one or two runs were considered exciting and if anyone scored three runs in an over, it was unheard of. Now, the influence of shorter format has made cricket more exciting; the newer shot selections have come in and newer scoring rates have come in. The captains are more attacking and decisive. It has done a lot of good.”

On racism

Over the last couple of days, the cricketing fraternity has been busy talking about racism in Australia, after some fans allegedly racially abused Mohammad Siraj.

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“I did read about what happened between the fans and the Indian cricketers in Sydney. Racism in any sort, in any country and in any manner has to be decried and condemned. And those responsible have to be sternly punished and action needs to be taken against them. In my time of touring Australia, I was fortunate of never coming across any kind of racial abuse. I can’t speak on behalf of other players. I personally have not been victimised of any racial slur or racial abuse. That’s true in every country that I visited in my time,” Sangakkara said.

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