Big deal for cricket
Mike Atherton says Sky's new agreement with the ECB will help English cricket develop at all levels.
Last Updated: 31/01/12 11:27am
Former captain Mike Atherton says Sky's new deal with the ECB will help England preserve their status as the best Test side in the world.
Under the new agreement with the ECB, which runs from 2014-2017, Sky Sports will show all of England's Test action, including the next two home Ashes series in 2013 and 2015.
Sky Sports commentator Atherton, who led England from 1993 to 1998, believes the agreement will generate good income for international, county and grassroots cricket.
"I captained England in an era when that wasn't that money around to spend on the England team," Atherton told Sky Sports News.
"I'm not sure what [ECB managing director] Hugh Morris' budget is these days but it is upwards of more than £20m, and that's a massive increase on what went before.
"When you see the England team prepare and the amount of backroom staff that they have now (even though Andy Flower actually would like a little bit more - he's talked this week about wanting Graham Gooch here on a full-time contract, about wanting a sports psychologist here on a full-time contract - they've just gone home before this Test match) the more money that Hugh Morris has got, the more he can give to Andy Flower to make England the best prepared team in the world."
Fellow pundit David Lloyd agrees that the deal, which means Sky's partnership with English cricket will go past the 25 year mark, is good for all levels of the game.
The Sky Sports ECB Coach Education Programme has trained 45,000 coaches since it began in 2006 and grass roots participation in cricket rose five per cent in 2011.
"Grassroots to Test match is finance and the deals that come along - and the ones that I've been involved in as a commentator - have meant that that there is finance there, there is stability there to get the game going forward," said Bumble.
Sky Sports has broadcast over 150 England Tests since its first in 1990 - the opening Test between West Indies and England at Kingston, Jamaica.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain made his Test debut in that match and admits that Sky's coverage of the game has come a long way in the intervening years.
"It's fantastic coverage. The people behind the scenes and the technology with new ideas coming in - we've covered games in 3D, high definition, spin vision, HawkEye - everything that can be done to make it a better product I think is done.
"The guys behind the scenes are absolutely fantastic. We have fun in the comm box; we have some absolute nutters like Lloyd and some old fogies like Botham and Gower, but we have some great fun because actually the cricket is fun at the moment.
"Covering the game of cricket when England are playing, win or lose, is brilliant."
Catch up with Athers, Bumble and Nass in the commentary box when coverage of the third Test between Pakistan and England gets underway at 5.30am on Friday on Sky Sports HD1.