Cricket must respect fans, says India’s Dravid

CANBERRA, (Reuters) – Cricket risks killing the goose  that lays the golden egg if it disrespects fans by scheduling  too many meaningless international matches, former India captain  Rahul Dravid has said.
Dravid, the first Indian to give the annual Sir Donald  Bradman Oration, said the sport needed to find a balance between  the three formats of the game and should consider playing test  matches, the “gold standard” of the game, at night.
“It must scale down this mad merry-go-round that teams and  players find themselves in: heading off for two-test tours and  seven-match ODI series with a few Twenty20s thrown in,” the  38-year-old said in his speech late on Wednesday.
“Test cricket deserves to be protected, it is what the  world’s best know they will to be judged by. Where I come from,  nation versus nation is what got people interested in cricket in  the first place.
“When I hear the news that a country is playing without some  of its best players, I always wonder, what do their fans think?
“We must actively fight to get as many (fans) as we can in,  to create a test match environment that the players and the fans  feed off. Anything but the sight of tests played on empty  grounds.
“For that, we have got to play test cricket that people can  watch. I don’t think day-night tests or a test championship  should be dismissed.”
Dravid, who said the money received from burgeoning  television rights deals had been a major force for good in  Indian cricket, had been shocked to see empty stadiums at recent  one day internationals between India and England.
“The fan has sent us a message and we must listen,” he said.  “This is not mere sentimentality. Empty stands do not make for  good television. Bad television can lead to a fall in ratings,  the fall in ratings will be felt by media planners and   advertisers’ looking elsewhere.”

Dravid said that could have an impact on the value of  television rights.
“If that happens, it is hard to see television rights around  cricket being as sought after as they have always been in the  last 15 years.
“Everything that has given cricket its power and influence  in the world of sports has started from that fan in the  stadium,” he added.
“They deserve our respect and let us not take them for  granted. Disrespecting fans is disrespecting the game.”
Dravid said the biggest dangers facing the sport were  spot-fixing and players being tempted to become involved with  the betting industry.
Players should be prepared to give up a “little bit of  freedom of movement and privacy” to battle those scourges and  undergo lie detector tests if necessary, he said.
He concluded by calling on his fellow players to remember  that how they conducted themselves as they played cricket was  reflected in the amateur game and would ultimately influence the  generations of cricketers to come.
“As the game’s custodians, it is important we are not  tempted by the short-term gains of the backward step,” he said.  “We can be remembered for being the generation that could take  the giant stride.”

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