The Sunday Leader

Protect Test cricket, Cook says after Sri Lanka series

By Ryan Francis

England batsman Alastair Cook is disappointed that England's tour to Sri Lanka was just two Test matches.

England batsman Alastair Cook wants cricket authorities to protect Test cricket after it was revealed that Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) had chosen not to play a three-Test series against England in order to allow their players to take part in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The lucrative IPL tournament, which is India’s domestic T20 tournament, was to blame for the cancellation of a Test tour to England in 2009. Both Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, utilising the Sri Lanka Cricketers’ Association (SLCA), protested SLC’s decision to schedule a last-minute Test series outside of the future tour’s programme and were instrumental in the cancellation of that tour.

The then chairman of the cricket board Arjuna Ranatunga, who gave Test cricket prominence over T20s, was removed by the sports minister to appease both the Sri Lankan players who had protested his decision to slot a Test series during the IPL season and the all-powerful Indian cricket board (BCCI).

“You ask most players what is the highlight of their career, it will always be something to do with Test cricket,” England opening batsman Cook said.

“Everyone at the end of the Sri Lanka series, especially the people watching, would have loved a decider.

“Twenty20 has been great for the game and has brought spectators through the gate but you have to protect Tests and the cricket authorities will always have to try to do that. If there are at least three matches in a series, it will give both teams better chances to win that series.

“We are lucky in England, where the first three or four days of a Test are nearly always sold out and we get great support on tour.”

A spokesman for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed to a Sri Lankan newspaper that the recently concluded two-Test series between England and Sri Lanka had not been three Tests because the ECB “did not receive a request from SLC to play three Test matches.”

As the host board, the spokesman said, SLC needed to “draw up the initial schedule for agreement by both countries.”

With Indian tours to the island generating unparalleled revenue amounting to millions of dollars for the cash-strapped SLC through television rights, as well as SLC earning 10-percent of their players’ IPL earnings, the Sri Lankan board is in no position to upset the BCCI.

Last year, the Times of India reported that when SLC requested it’s players to return from the IPL early to prepare for their 2011 tour of England, the BCCI had threatened to “ask the IPL franchisees to block the salaries of the Lankan cricketers and even refuse to pay the Lankan board its share of 10% of the players’ earnings.”

“SLC’s priorities today are not the interests of Sri Lankan cricket but to remain in the good books of the BCCI,” Sri Lanka’s world cup winning captain Ranatunga told The Island newspaper in Sri Lanka recently.

“Look at those individuals at the [SLCA] who worked to scrap a tour of England three years ago and permitted the players to go for the IPL; two of them were appointed as members of the interim committee, while another is a match referee at the IPL.”

Ranatunga was referring to his younger brother Nishantha Ranatunga, Pramodya Wickremasinghe and Graeme Labrooy.

Reports suggest the ECB will reciprocate by scheduling a similiar short two-Test series when Sri Lanka tours England next, which is a blow to the island nation who up until 2002 were only allocated one Test per tour by the England board.

This article is courtesy of Island Cricket

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