Sangakkara calls for wage structure to save Test cricket

Legendary batsman believes improvement in pay scale is the only way moving forward

Afp February 07, 2018
Great honour: Kumar Sangakkara believes amid big money offers from the cash-rich T20 leagues, representing the national team remains pinnacle for any player in the game. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG: Sri Lankan veteran Kumar Sangakkara has called for Test cricket to introduce a minimum match fee for all countries to stop young players ditching the long-form for lucrative T20 leagues.

Sangakkara, the fifth-highest run scorer in the history of Test cricket, retired from the first-class game last year but has continued playing for domestic T20 franchises around the world, including in this week's Hong Kong T20 Blitz.

The 40-year-old praised the shorter format for spreading the game's popularity to new markets but warned that without change Test cricket, could face a battle to remain relevant for young players and fans.

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"T20 is the ideal format to introduce — you talk about the Americas, with China," Sangakkara told AFP on Wednesday. "Since its inception it's been a huge pillar of strength for world cricket. But there are a few negatives ... a lot of young players taking up T20 instead of playing international cricket. There are various things that have been discussed, about parity of pay, especially when it comes to match fees for Test cricket.”

He added: "Shouldn't there be a blanket minimum pay for Test cricketers? The top countries are being paid a certain Test match fee — shouldn't that be reflected all throughout the Test-playing countries?"

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Currently, international match fees paid to cricketers from different Test nations vary wildly, with the sport's so-called "Big Three" — India, England and Australia — far ahead of the rest.

According to a survey last year by ESPN CricInfo, Australia's captain Steven Smith was due to earn $1,469,000 in 2017 while Zimbabwean skipper Graeme Cremer pocketed just $86,000.

Players from poorer nations can often earn more in the T20 world than by representing their countries at Test level.

The MCC world cricket committee last month endorsed calls for wage reform at its annual meeting.

Fans as well as players need to be canvased on the changes required to keep Test cricket as the sport's pinnacle, including day-night and four-day Tests, said Sangakkara.

"We need to understand what Test cricket means to players and what it is to fans," he said. "Relevance in sport is so important in terms of not just growing the sport but also sustaining it. I think international cricket is very strong still. For any player, I think the honour of representing their country be it in Test, one-dayers or T20 cricket, it's still the pinnacle of the game."