London:Amid fears that Test cricket may soon be left trampled under the stampede for Twenty20 cash, England captain Kevin Pietersen on Sunday urged world cricket leaders to do everything in their power to protect the longer version of the game.
Pietersen insisted that the primacy and integrity of Test cricket must be preserved at all costs.
"Test cricket is the big stuff. It's about challenging yourself against the best players in the world in the hardest environment. I've had a taste of how wonderful it is and I love everything about playing for my country," Pietersen told 'The Mail on Sunday'.
"But future generations, even my kids, might be facing questions like 'Do I want to be a Test cricketer or do I want to be a Twenty20 cricketer and franchise myself out for that?". And they might feel differently," he stated.
Pietersen underlines the dangers by citing the example of left-arm swing bowler Neil Carter, contracted as a Warwickshire player but allowed by the club to join Middlesex on loan to play in their Twenty20 games in Antigua and in Champions League Twenty20 in India in December.
Pietersen's side play county Twenty20 champions Middlesex on Sunday in Antigua as part of build up to first of five annual winner-takes-all USD 20 million Stanford matches on Saturday which could net him and his team more than 6 lakh pounds each.
With a new Southern Premier League planned for clubs from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, the Champions League T20 in December, the second Twenty20 World Cup in England next summer and the English Premier League due to start in 2010 alongside the Standford international quadrangular tournament, the power and popularity of the shortest form of the game is growing across the world.
The England captain feared that unless steps are taken to ensure that Test cricket remains the pinnacle of the world game, the current and next generation of world stars will turn their backs on it in pursuit of the Twenty20 dollar.
"We're fortunate to be given the chance to go and earn this money in the Stanford series," said Pietersen, who is also likely to earn a lucrative IPL contract next year.
"But there is scope for thinking: 'Why on earth are we playing this match? We're employed by the ECB and the ECB is a business. The hard reality is that we do what we are told, and when, by our employers and, as captain, I've got to be happy about leading the side.
"But I do have concerns that, in time, there may be more scope for people to come in and offer big money for this kind of tournament and, if that happens, just how can we protect the integrity of the Test cricket.
"For me, the IPL is a spin-off for a successful Test career," Pietersen said, adding "not the main event. We are lucky in England that Test cricket is so well supported, and when we go abroad in most countries the crowds come with us.
"There will never be any trouble with series like the Ashes. But it was a concern that so few people were present for most of the recent Test between India and Australia in Mohali."