Colombo:Sri Lanka's top stars, including the world's leading bowler Muttiah Muralitharan, want more Test matches to be played despite the growing popularity of Twenty20 cricket.
The off-spinner, who has more Test (777) and one-day (511) wickets than any other bowler and will quit the five-day game at the end of 2010, said Test matches raised the stamina and skills of cricketers.
"Tests are the ultimate challenge of cricket," Muralitharan, 37, said at a function organised for him by his home club, the Tamil Union, in Colombo on Sunday night.
"Over five days, your endurance, skills, patience is put to the test. You need to work hard, bowl more variations. It's physically very challenging.
"When I first started, I always wanted to be a Test cricketer. I still want to be known as a Test cricketer. We should play more Tests."
Sri Lanka will play only one Test series next year, at home against the West Indies, which has forced Muralitharan to abandon his stated ambition of taking 1,000 Test wickets.
The injury-prone bowler, who missed last month's Test against Pakistan due to a swollen knee, hopes to continue playing one-day and Twenty20 cricket until the 2011 World Cup.
Muralitharan, who represents the Chennai Super Kings in the lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition, said the shortest format of the game was easier for a bowler like him.
"When I first saw Twenty20, I thought it was a crap game, it was just for fun," he said. "But T20 is much easier for me. I have to bowl only four overs.
"On a good day I can get a few wickets and give away a few runs."
Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara, in the midst of a two-Test home series against New Zealand, backed his star spinner's call for more Test cricket.
"I think the ICC (International Cricket Council) and the administrators from other countries should include more Tests in the Future Tours Programme," Sangakkara said at the same function.
"When you play Test cricket you are playing for a place in history and there is no better testing ground for any player other than on a Test field.
"I think we need a minimum 10 Tests each year," Sangakkara said.
Mahela Jayawardene, Sangakkara's predecessor as captain, suggested the ICC could use revenues from limited-over games to cross-subsidise Test matches and ensure more people filled the grounds.
"Perhaps we should not play Tests on Monday and Tuesday, because people can't take leave from work," he said. "We can schedule matches towards the end of the week so people can come and watch with their families."
A Future Tours Programme from 2011 onwards will soon be unveiled by the ICC.