Sangakkara pitches for cricket’s new format

“The T10 format can be used to take cricket to a lot more countries that don’t have the temperament for the traditional version of the game, or the time for the 50-over game. This could also be an interesting way to attract children from all countries to the game,” says the Sri Lankan legend.

Kumar Sangakkara... “The skills and athleticism will count the most in T10 cricket which will be of extremely high intensity.”   -  AP

When Kumar Sangakkara speaks, the world listens. This is how most of his contemporaries describe the Sri Lankan legend. Be it his ability to read a match, or analyse a game, Sangakkara is known for being crisp, to the point and accurate. Besides, he also loves to speak his mind.

Sangakkara, along with Virender Sehwag, is set to represent Maratha Arabians in cricket’s shortest format, the T10 Cricket League. Having played in all the formats, the former Sri Lanka captain is of the view that the T10 league will receive major crowd support because of its intensity. Ahead of the tournament, scheduled to begin in Sharjah on December 14, Sangakkara speaks to Sportstar.

Question: As someone who is regarded as one of the icons of the traditional form of cricket, how do you see the advent of T10 Cricket League?

Answer: It is an exciting new innovation. The game has already been shortened to 20 overs a side, and now it would be interesting to see how the shortest format of the game — the T10 league — goes. It would certainly have more crowd interest because the action will be more intense, there will be a lot happening in a shorter time frame. The new format can be used to take cricket to a lot more countries that don’t have the temperament for the traditional version of the game, or the time for the 50-over game. This could be an interesting way to attract children from all countries to the game. T10 can also condense the intrigues, and the beauty of the game can be increased even in a shorter time period.

Are you hinting at the fact that too much T20 cricket is being played? Do you think that monotony needs to be broken?

I don’t think this league would start off as a direct competition to T20 cricket. The new league (T10 Cricket League) is a testing ground to see how this format can condense the game further with so many players around. And at the same time, be it T20 or the ODIs, there needs to be contests. There has to be a meaningful league, meaningful rivalries. It needs to be simple, vibrant and there has to be a nice player-fan connect, which is important for the success of all these leagues. It will be interesting to see how the T10 League starts off, how it gets established among the mainstream cricket fans, and whether a new class of fans will join cricket as a result of the League. It will be interesting to see what this particular format can achieve.

The T10 League has attracted a lot of attention from star players like you, Sehwag, Shahid Afridi and Eoin Morgan. But none of you is used to playing 10 overs a side game. What are the challenges you people will face?

I think when you play T20 cricket everyone sees it as a shorter version of the game, where things are relatively easy-paced. There is also a notion that it is much easier than 50-over cricket. But over the years, we have found out that T20 cricket is the most intense format of the sport. It requires a lot of energy and fitness to play a T20 game that is of high intensity. So, even though T10 league is far shorter, it would still stress out the players. It would require the ability to explode right from the beginning and the energy to keep your strength and fitness levels high because it is short and quick. You need energy throughout the game. At the same time, you will need to make your mindset more aggressive from the first ball.

In T20, there might be an over or two where the game kind of goes slow, and you can take it in your stride. But here, there is no such scope. You have to be on it right from the word ‘go’. You have to be explosive right from the beginning. That is why the skills and athleticism will count the most in this format, which may be condensed, but is of extremely high intensity.

With the world going gaga over T20 cricket, do you think that there should be a separate window for these leagues?

I personally feel that now there are much more demands by the franchises of the T20 leagues for specific windows. Unfortunately, we saw the postponement of the Global T20 League in South Africa. After the Indian Premier League, even the Big Bash League is a very well-run tournament. These leagues have produced high quality cricket. You see how the Caribbean Premier League or the Bangladesh Premier League has taken hold, and also look at the quality of cricket.

Even England is revamping its T20 structure to embrace franchise cricket. So more and more leagues are coming up, and all these leagues want major players to come and play for long, because that’s how the fan connect happens, and that’s how the corporate structure works. But then, it might be very, very difficult to come up with a special window for every tournament. However, the IPL is getting a window where more and more countries are allowing their players to play; they are clearing their schedule for the IPL. Other countries may be eyeing the same thing.

So are you saying that T20 is the only way forward for cricket?

I see that T20 cricket may be the format that is run entirely in the franchise set-up, and the players will play for their country once in four years in the T20 World Cup. Playing for your country is prime, so is playing for your franchise. There has to be a harmony. Also you have to make sure that the players reaffirm their commitments to international cricket, especially Tests and ODIs.

Being someone who has always favoured the longest and the traditional format of the game, how do you see its future?

The birth of T20 and its intensity has brought more challenges to the other formats, barring the iconic Test series like the Ashes. A lot more contests are required. Test cricket is not going to be compared to T20s or ODIs. It would be interesting to see how the balance is maintained in all the formats that are now coming to exist, so that each of the formats has its own niche and its own followers.

You spoke about putting more emphasis on Test cricket. So in this context, how do you see the proposal of the ICC World Test Championships? Do you think it will help the game?

I believe the World Test Championship will be a great move forward. Of course, getting its format correct is important, thereby ensuring that when the World Test Championship is played, each team gets some mileage. And it should also be ensured that the World Test Championship is played in the right environment (of a World Championship). That will drive spectators and players and will take the intensity to a new level.