Atherton, who was speaking during the UK launch of former India skipper Sourav Ganguly’s book ‘A century is not enough’ at Lord’s when he was asked about the threat the launch of new T20 leagues posed to Test cricket.
“Like any other industry, cricket has been disrupted. IPL has been a disruptive event, giving players options and opportunities,” the Englishman was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
“We still sell Test cricket well here in England. The grounds in India may look empty (during Test matches) but we have to bear in mind that those are much larger grounds. The game has always adapted and will continue to do so. I remain optimistic about the future,” he added.
Ganguly, on his part, suggested that day-night Tests were the way forward to revive interest in the five-day game.
“It is difficult for working people to spend the whole day away from work at a cricket ground,” the former India skipper stated.
Former Sri Lanka stalwart Kumar Sangakkara too was a part of the discussion and he mentioned the need for Test cricket to become financially viable in the modern times.
“There is still a great love for Test cricket. But everything evolves and moves on. We just have to change our mindset,” the Sri Lankan said.
The two sides begin the five-match series on Friday with Pakistan going into the opener at Queens Sports Club as strong favourites following their T20 tri-series triumph.
They will also take on a Zimbabwe side who are missing several key players with the likes of Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza absent after a dispute with the Zimbabwe Cricket board. But Sarfraz believes his team will have to be on top of their game to beat the hosts and register their first ODI win in 2018 after being beaten 5-0 by in a bilateral series against New Zealand.
“The one-day series is important, and it’s not easy to play Zimbabwe in their home conditions,” said Sarfraz.
“The matches are also starting very early. It’s probably even more cold in Bulawayo too, so it’s not going to be an easy series.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe coach Lalchand Rajput promised that his charges will give a ‘real fight’ in every game.
“Pakistan are very strong but our players are a little bit confident,” Rajput said.
“The confidence we take from the T20I series will be shown in the ODI series as well. I am sure this team will definitely push Pakistan and make a real fight of the ODI series.”
After skipper Dinesh Chandimal was ruled out of the series along with coach Chandika Hathurusinghe for pleading guilty to their Level Three offence in the tour of the West Indies, pacer Suranga Lakmal once again led the team for the second match in a row.
Electing to bat first after Lakmal won the toss, Sri Lanka’s openers Karunaratne and Danushka Gunathilaka added 44 runs for the first wicket before the latter fell to Dale Steyn who took one step close to overtaking Shaun Pollock as South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker.
Kagiso Rabada then turned on the heat with the ball with a three-wicket burst that reduced the hosts to 119-5. The Proteas had lined up with two spinners in the form of Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi and the move paid off with the latter getting in amongst the wickets as Sri Lanka were further reduced to 176-8.
Karunaratne, who had recently returned from an injury layoff, frustrated the visitors however with a classy innings full of steel and determination. The 30-year-old opener brought up his eighth Test ton as he carried the tail with him to get Sri Lanka closer to the 300-run mark.
Karunaratne forged a 48-run stand for the ninth wicket with skipper Lakmal before putting together 63 runs with last man Lakshan Sandakan as Sri Lanka ultimately posted 287 in their first innings. Rabada was the pick of the South Africa bowlers with figures of 4-50 while Shamsi picked up three wickets. Karunaratne carried his bat as he remained unbeaten on 158.
In reply, South Africa’s innings got off to a horrible start as Aiden Markram’s lean patch continued as Rangana Herath had him caught at slip for another duck.
The visitors were batting at 4-1 when stumps were drawn at Galle.
Sri Lanka First Innings: 287 all out
Dimuth Karunaratne – 158 not out
Kagiso Rabada: 4-50
South Africa First Innings: 4-1
Rangana Herath : 1-1