Sanga: I Would Have Loved The Experience Of A Five-Test Series

Richard Browne in conversationwith Kumar Sangakkara


Q: Given the prestige attached to World Cup victories, does Test cricket suffer for the absence of that ultimate pinnacle (excluding the Ashes of course). Is the World Test championship the only answer, or is that a flawed concept in itself?
A: No and no. Putting it back has given us breathing space to rebuild, but this aside I was all in favour of starting it as soon as possible. It would only increase the drive and enthusiasm of Test players to really fight it out when the going gets tough and this can only increase the spectacle of Test cricket.
Personally and I expect for a lot of other players as well each Test match is a genuine event in itself and doesn’t require more meaning as you say, but what it would do is give more meaning for fans especially in Sri Lanka, where Test cricket is not ingrained and for a lot of the public does lack meaning.
After the two recently concluded World Cup’s in the shorter format of the games it would  have been an ideal way of gauging exactly where Test cricket does stand with the cricket watching public in comparison with ODIS and Twenty 20’s.
Putting it back is really disappointing, cricket does need it and I would be fascinated to feel the intensity of a Test final. Test cricket is the most intense format and I thrive on it, notching it up another gear, would be the ultimate test. Personally it’s a real shame that I will not be around to experience it now.
Q: I am presuming you never played a five-Test series… Does that annoy you or something you accept given Sri Lanka’s long-held status as minnows … what about England’s attitude to Sri Lanka, one-off Tests right up until Murali’s match in 1998 … are they actually to blame for limiting the scope of the version of the sport they hold most dear?
A: I think if in our early days we had been given more Tests the standard of Sri Lankan cricket would have improved a lot quicker and to me it was very short sighted to introduce a new country to the international stable then treat them with disdain, but such is life and we have managed to rise above it.
I know the players in the generation that preceded me felt deprived of opportunities in the Test arena. I would love to have experienced the challenge of playing a five Test series, especially from the mental side, but I never expected too and thus am not disappointed that I haven’t. What I can’t stand are two Test series, they cheapen the product and are not worth the trouble. Abolish them now and make it compulsory for all series to be at least three matches long.
I think the mistake the old guardians made was in not seeing where cricket was going in general and thus not being ready to deal with the challenges that Test’s faced when 20/20 exploded. In fairness even at the start of my career it was unforeseeable that the game would change so much in a decade.
To me though when the future of cricket is discussed it should be just that, cricket and not the individual formats. ODI’s kick started a more aggressive approach to the longer format of the game and 20/20 has accelerated it- look at Test run rates for example, Test cricket is definitely better to watch now. All the formats make up cricket and they should be seen as an entirety that all benefit the overall good of the game.
Q: Have you noticed a sea-change in Test cricket’s status in the course of your career? If so, how does this impact on younger players coming into Test cricket? Is it harder to motivate players for a five-day game than it might have been before the limited-overs boom?
A: No it isn’t. Players themselves love Test cricket. There are so many ODI’s and 20/20’s that players who have experienced Test cricket really start to crave it, when in our case for example we can go months and months without playing a Test. Just about every player accepts that Test cricket is the most complete test of skills and that the best in the long run always shine.
No matter how lucrative other versions get, hearts and minds are still held by Tests for the vast majority of players.
All the young players in the Sri Lankan set up are totally focused on Test cricket its where your name is made and you are recognized as a quality player.
There is obviously a lot more competition for the public’s attention since my career started and the challenge is to achieve the primacy that the game holds for the players with the public. There needs to be discourse between players and the public and players should take every opportunity to promote the game and establish its primacy.
Q: How culpable are the boards in undermining Test cricket as a spectacle, not least in Sri Lanka, by moving matches from beautiful atmospheric grounds such as Kandy to soulless concrete bowls. how vital is the spectator experience to the overall product? Seven hours for five days is a big investment to ask from viewers. How much does it affect the players when there’s next to no crowd?
A: I think some of our scheduling around Tests is not the best. Two Test series must go and playing the West Indies last season during the monsoons was not ideal. I saw you at Pallekelle, do you really think it’s a ‘soulless concrete bowl’???  – but I take your point. It is absolutely crucial especially in the subcontinent where as you know public transport is not of the same standard and reliability as in the west that internationals stadiums are built in areas of high population density, preferably in the cities themselves.
This is a bigger problem in India which is bigger than Sri Lanka and some of the outstation stadiums seem to be miles from anywhere. If people are 50/50 about coming to a day at the Test, then a two hour bus journey is not going to swing them.
In Sri Lanka we have to improve facilities at the grounds make it a real family day out, with more sheltered seating, kids attractions, better food etc. It’s vital that we get the kids watching Test cricket as they are the ones who will carry the tradition forward over here.
It would be a bit of a dream come true for me to play a test at the SSC in front of a full house of Sri Lankan’s, the only time it’s full is when we play you and the Barmy Army takes over. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have the Sri Lankan fans enjoying themselves like they do at the ODI’s and the Barmy Army all in the same stadium?
Sri Lanka is cricket mad and although most of our Tests outside of Galle are poorly attended the public will still be following. I would like to see a blackout of Test being shown on telly in the city their being played in, I’m sure that would get people inside. It’s a tricky one though; broadcasting money is so huge and so important to so many different levels of the game in Sri Lanka, that nothing should be done to harm the deals. But…”
Q: Is it too easy to find something else to do these days? Have attention spans been limited by proliferation of cable tv, smartphones, etc, or does that actually help people to follow the sport, albeit from a distance (that’s maybe one for an administrator first and foremost, but his answer I’m sure would be well considered…)?
A: I think technology is great for Test cricket especially. In Sri Lanka I reckon people are so intrigued by the technology that they tune in just to see what’s it’s all about. I would like to see more of it. Even get GPS involved. If Test cricket is to achieve the global primacy we want then the technology for it has to be world class and there is a lot more need for it in Test’s than the shorter forms of the game. I am all for using the social media to build up interest and following in the game, business’ are now using it, so why shouldn’t we. Technology and the decisions they produce are great talking points on social media forums.
One of the key points we need to get across to the public are the very high skill sets required to play Test cricket. DRS and the rest cuts out errors and will help the cream rise to the top, in time the public will respond to this and hopefully fully understand the  technical skills, stamina, courage and consistency Tests require.
Q: How will you be judged for posterity? what would it mean to be bracketed, say, with men such as Bradman, Hammond, Miandad and Gavaskar. Is that more important than the money that can be made from the game, and if so, do you feel that this take differs from your contemporaries?
A: Personally I would love to be remembered as the greatest player who ever lived. The great thing about modern day cricket is that you can you do both. No one should be scared of saying ‘this is my job, I have a family I want to make as much money as I can’, but the youngsters must realize that this entails hard work, serious work over years and that to sit on the top table of earners 99 times out of 100 you have to do your stuff in Test’s. I think anyway that superstar 20/20 specialists are a misdemeanor, look at Warner of Australia, if you can perform amongst the best in 20/20 you can do it in Test’s.
Eventually I would like to see a reversion to the old order and Test cricket returning to being the highest paid form of the game. Is this viable? I hope so, in fact think so eventually. It’s all about making Test cricket the pinnacle.

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