Jayawardene calls for single Twenty20 vision

Published: Wednesday, September 10, 2008, 16:00 [IST]
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Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene has said there should only be one major Twenty20 cricket event a year so as to strike a balance with the Test game and ensure a fairer spread of the sport's riches.

Authorities in India, world cricket's financial powerhouse, were initially wary of the shortened format, which has proved popular with fans around the world after being pioneered professionally in the English county game.

But the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has since embraced Twenty20 with the creation of the Indian Premier League (IPL), a lucrative competition featuring the world's best players appearing for franchise teams.

Now there are plans to expand the IPL and, in the meantime, English cricket chiefs, alarmed about losing control over their own players, have signed up to a million dollars a man winner-takes-all Twenty20 clash in Antigua in November against a Caribbean 'Superstars' side put together by Texan-born billionaire Allen Stanford.

Next year will see the launch of the English Premier League (EPL) and Jayawardene, a nominee for the International Cricket Council's player of the year award, due to be presented in Dubai on Wednesday, said the feeding frenzy had to stop for the overall good of the global game.

"The important thing is that the boards don't compete with each other," the batsman told the October edition of the Wisden Cricketer magazine.

"The BCCI also needs to understand that we can't be playing four Twenty20 tournaments in a year. What happens to other cricket around the world then?

"Everyone's being driven by the money but you have to compromise and start sharing the pot."

Jayawardene was in no doubt about what should happen next. "The way forward would be to have one big T20 tournament, whether that's IPL, EPL or Stanford, and it will accommodate everyone's interests.

"The best players will play over a short period and the income generated can be shared," the 31-year-old veteran of 98 Tests and 283 one-day internationals explained. "That way, you still have your ODIs and Tests, and the FTP (Future Tours Programme) functions properly."

Sri Lanka's senior players are currently in dispute with their board over next year's hastily arranged tour of England, brought about by England's decision to break off cricket relations with Zimbabwe.

Jayawardene said the row revolved around financial security for his side which, for all the exciting cricket it often plays, is not considered a big commercial draw by other nations.

"There's no compromise when it comes to playing for our country," said Jayawardene. "We put everything on the line but, regardless of how well we play against England or Australia, we'll still get paid what we get right now (about 2,500 pounds per Test and 1,500 pounds for a one-day game).

"But when we're given an opportunity like the IPL, it's a chance to play six weeks of cricket and make the sort of money that the rest of the world makes just by playing for their countries."

Sri Lanka, a small island nation plagued by civil war, have consistently punched above their weight in international cricket but Jayawardene said a lack of matches was restricting their progress in five-day Tests, still widely considered as the pinnacle of the sport.

"I think we have only 10 Tests in the next three years. Out of that, we're playing Bangladesh (Test cricket's weakest nation) home and away. So where's our opportunity to climb up the ladder?"

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