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Jonathan Trott has welcomed the prospect of England’s Test team returning to terrestrial television and believes it could help “get the nation behind the side” in India.
With just two days to go until the eagerly-anticipated four-match series begins in Chennai there has still been no confirmation of broadcast arrangements, but Channel 4 are understood to be closing in on a deal with rights holders Star Sports.
Should that come off, England’s Test cricketers would appear on one of the traditional free-to-air platforms for the first time since the 2005 Ashes. The 2019 World Cup final was shared with Channel 4 by Sky Sports and attracted big viewing figures, including almost five million on the terrestrial provider.
Trott, who is with the team in India as a batting consultant, played all 52 of his Test matches behind the Sky paywall and believes the current coronavirus restrictions make now the perfect time for the switch.
“I think the more people we can get watching the game is a great idea and fantastic for the sport,” he said.
“I’m sure it’s going to be exciting for everybody. For people in lockdown, hopefully they can watch it and we can get the nation behind the side and give a little bit back in what is quite a testing time all around the world.
“It’s always the ECB’s thought to try and inspire a generation and people to play the game. By doing that on free-to-air – and through Sky as well – it’s about reaching those people and making sure we get as many people playing cricket and playing sport as it’s very important at the current time especially.”
Former England captain David Gower, who spent more than two decades as a key part of Sky’s presenting team before departing in 2019, stressed the value that the subscription service had brought to the game over many years.
“It’s all about free competition and it has always been about the highest bidder,” he said.
“If they are bringing cricket to the UK on free-to-air, as we saw with the World Cup final where Sky made the gesture despite having exclusive rights, the audience goes up automatically. But there has always been the argument – do you want £200million to spend on the game or a substantially smaller sum and have an extra million people watching?
“It’s one of those questions where you can have as many pints as you like in the pub – whenever they open – and still be debating it. Talking about the ECB, they’ve always gone with the argument that they’ve had the money to spend on developing the game and that’s been as important as having people sitting in front of a TV watching.”