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Find a structured way to take over T20: Lara urges ICC to save Test cricket

NEW DELHI, May 8: Admitting that T20 competitions have eaten up a lot of space in Test cricket, West Indies legend Brian Lara has appealed to the ICC to intervene and give structure to the ruthless invasion of the franchise-based tournaments.
In the latest case to raise questions about the relevance of Tests, South Africa recently sent an underperforming team to New Zealand because their first-choice players were involved at home in the SA20.
“I think ICC needs to put its heads together and find a way for franchise cricket to take over but in a much more structured way and not in terms of the free fall that is going on at the moment,” Lara said in an interaction with PTI editors at the headquarters, which was facilitated by Star Sports, where he is a commentator and pundit for the ongoing IPL.
“I hope the astute thinkers can find a way to ensure (Test) remains relevant. I love the Test Championship and I think it is important to ensure the game remains relevant.”
Is cricket now taking the football route, where competitions take precedence over international assignments?
While Lara agreed with this point in principle, he also found differences in the two models.
“Well, yes (cricket according to the football style). Let’s look at football. For example, in addition to the major cups – European Cups, World Cup, South American Cups – they can also have a few friendly matches. So Barcelona, ​​Manchester United, Manchester City, they generally have their footballers for eleven months a year.
“That seems to work for football. It also eases the burden on each country to find ways to make money by organizing football matches,” Lara began.
But Lara said the wealth being amassed between three major countries – India, Australia and England – presents a very different scenario in cricket.
“West Indies are now in a situation where our receipts cannot help us survive. So we are very grateful when India tours the West Indies. There’s a lot of money going around for TV rights, which is great.
“So it’s hard to see outside the big three – Australia, England and India – how countries will survive when things are tough for them economically.”
From a cricketing perspective, the elegant left-hander said teams that often don’t have their best players also make things difficult for teams outside the big three.
Lara may have had someone like Trent Boult in mind after the pacer recently turned down the New Zealand central contract to become a T20 freelancer.
“Secondly, they (teams) do not have their best players because their best players earn a living for their families elsewhere (leagues),” he added.
In March this year, BCCI had introduced a Test Cricket Incentive Scheme, an additional reward structure on top of the existing match fees, to ensure parity with match fees in other formats and competitions.
Lara welcomed the move but added that bringing spectators to the ground was just as important to maintain the game and sponsors’ interest.
“The incentive, or what BCCI is doing because they have the money, is one aspect of that. Of course, the reward for the players is great to keep them interested in the game.
“But if you walk into a Test match and there is no one at that Test match, it is not encouraging. Try to get them (crowd) back into the ground,” Lara said.
The Trinidadian said having a stadium filled to the brim is also important from the sponsors’ point of view.
“I’m pretty sure you’ve experienced it in India, where a sponsor would rather spend his money on three hours of cricket than on five days of cricket. “Hey, you have five days to promote your product.”
“The business person will say, ‘But there is no one to advertise to. Give me three hours. I will pay even more money.’ So I think getting the audience back is also something that needs to be discussed,” he explained.
While Lara has little doubt that the T20 format will meet the demands of spectators, he said modern viewers need to be educated about the unique ebbs and flows of five-day cricket.
‘Well, I hope this is not the case (the test does not lose its relevance). The shorter version of the game has been adopted and it is entertainment and that is what people are looking for. We have not educated the contemporary audience about the importance of batting a session and not losing a wicket.” (PTI)