ICC news February 8, 2017

New Test Championship model creeps closer

The long-awaited championship is a step closer, and it can accommodate icon series
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'New league structure will guarantee fixtures for Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland' - Richardson

Scheduling symmetry and a gentler entry into Test cricket for the likes of Afghanistan and Ireland were among the factors that saw plans for a Test Championship of two six-team conferences evolve into the 9-3 concept approved by the ICC's chief executives committee in their quarterly meetings in Dubai last week.

Having agreed in principle to move forward with two conferences of six nations after the meetings in October last year, the CEC reconvened to be told by ICC management that the conference model was unwieldy and impractical. Matters were complicated by the need for cross-conference fixtures in the event that teams like Australia and England or India and South Africa were not drawn in the same conference for a protracted period.

Chief executives were instead presented with the 9-3 model, which will require each of the top nine-ranked nations to play each opponent at least once home or away over a two-year period before a championship decider is held. Teams would then swap home and away series in the next cycle, meaning an "icon" series such as the Ashes would still be played on a four-year, home and away basis.

Those present at the meeting agreed that a landscape of two home and two away Test series per team each year - with the flexibility of being able to play anything from a one-off Test to a series of five matches - was the best and most symmetrical option for the top nine nations. At the same time, the "other three", Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan will play each other in Test matches with the additional option of higher-ranked nations meeting them for one-off fixtures when possible.

Such matches would most likely take the place of warm-up games for Tests against other opponents in the same region. A country touring England, for instance, could play a Test against Ireland rather than a warm-up against a second-division county side. Similarly, a match against Afghanistan could precede a series against Pakistan in the UAE, or a meeting with Zimbabwe serve as the entree to a series against South Africa.

Since Shashank Manohar's appointment as ICC chairman in May last year, the governing body and member nations have mulled three different concepts for a championship. The first, which called for two tiers of six sides, was thrown out due to opposition from the boards of India and Sri Lanka, in particular, amid concerns that it divided Full Member nations into first- and second-rate cricket-playing countries.

The aim of the new model is to bring more context to each Test series for the fan, irrespective of their favourite team's participation © Getty Images

Plans for a workable Test Championship league structure have been tossed around for so long now that international cricket is now well into the year that the second edition of the championship playoff was supposed to be held - the first was meant to have taken place as far back as 2013.

That model, first unveiled by then ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat in 2011, was preceded by serious discussions around the idea of a Test Championship in 2008, when a model was put together by Rohan Sajdeh of the Boston Consulting Group and advocated by the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland.

In 2009, Lorgat had summed up the benefits of a league simply: "There's no doubt a Test championship would be of great benefit. Let's say you and your mate are South African and Australian - and India are about to play Sri Lanka. If the result impacts on your team's championship standing, you are bound to be more interested."

However the 2008 discussions floundered due to opposition from the boards of India and England. The later attempt was also filibustered by the same two nations, with added commercial pressure from broadcasters who did not wish to accept the idea of replacing the ODI Champions Trophy with a Test Championship playoff.

This time around, the championship will be set to begin in 2019, at the commencement of the next round of fixtures and broadcast rights. But much like a raft of other issues discussed in Dubai last week - from the ICC's financial model to its constitution - final approval and implementation remains elusive.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jay Gadsdon on February 11, 2017, 19:34 GMT

    @iv_cricket well said. But the problem is difference in teams are amplified when the touring is minimal, and, test cricket is the best game for its mini half an hour battles that affect a day and a half later, but generally only when the teams are matched.

  • Jay Gadsdon on February 11, 2017, 19:29 GMT

    @OttawaRocks, i like the idea, but we should have different points for result say win by innings and, bonus points for 1st innings lead. This ensures that the manner in which a lower ranked team loses against the big boys has meaning, and pushes a team to play for a win inside 4 days also if my a miracle afghanistan bats out a draw on a sunny 5 days in sth africa the lower team gains more points. We the fan would be saying well done afghanistan/ireland and be saying rabada how could you not take them last few wickets-aargh

  • sevillano on February 11, 2017, 11:36 GMT

    I think it is very good for there to be a World Test Championship involving 9 teams. The reason for there being "uncompeteitive" matches is not, in my opinion, so much a question of the teams themselves as the immense power of home advantage, which is the reason for which I would prefer a four or five year competition involving home AND away series between all the competing nations.

  • TheCricketEmpireStrikesBack on February 10, 2017, 22:42 GMT

    Todays Cricinfo headline: "India declare at 687/6". Unfortunately the proposals will mean many more such headlines. Just how many uncompetitive Test matches are required before interest in the format is killed off completely? A two-tier system with open promotion and relegation is the only way to create competitive, meaningful Test cricket.

  • St John Smythe on February 10, 2017, 22:25 GMT

    I cannot see any way how this plan will rejuvnate test cricket. Has anyone at the ICC ever followed a league? The main interest is in the regular scheduling (so not something that drags out too long- have they also not learnt form the world cups which went too long) and to see who will win or get relegated. Will we care 2 years in, when team 5 plays team 7? The ICC have also basicly shut out Ireland, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. The top 9 do not want to be relegated so I cannot see any opportunity for them to join the big boys in an already schedule. I also wonder about the sustainability of flying teams like Bangladesh and the West Indies all over the world for 1 match series. You also have countries not wanting to tour other countries for various reasons and series of unequal lengths which compromises the league. With 1 day cricket struggling for relevance I cannot see why the ICC would not try to work out that league first. It is logistically easier and more in need of a revamp

  • OttawaRocks on February 10, 2017, 14:32 GMT

    This new model is well thought out and I believe it will endure. Elements I would add: (a) Have points allotted so we have 3 points given for a series win, 1 point given for a drawn series and 0 offered for a loss; (b) Make the warm-up match a test match that is mandatory and which must be played against one of the "Associates" (i.e., Zim or Ire or Afg). If the touring team refuses to play that warm-up match then they automatically forfeit their test championship points for that tour.

  • John-Price on February 10, 2017, 10:25 GMT

    Something that never crops up in discussion of test knock-out competitions is the word 'DRAW'. About a quarter of matches end in this way and it is an essential part of the game. Abolish it by some contrived means and you no longer have test cricket. That reason alone undermines the whole idea.

  • John-Price on February 10, 2017, 10:19 GMT

    Why does there have to be a decider? The EPL is the most successful competition in the world and there is no final. In the context of leagues generally and test matches in particular it makes no sense. If one team dominates all opponents for two years, how that that reality be overturned by a one off game on a neutral venue? It is as if the Grand Prix championship were decided by a single race between the top two drivers. It would be seen as an absurdity and rightly so.

  • redneck on February 9, 2017, 23:45 GMT

    i think this is a rational step forward, a good chance of being implemented as its almost status quo but with structure. as an aussie id much rather play a 1 or 2 test series with ireland before the ashes in england than a div 2 country fielding a mix of their 2nd XI and their youth team!!! also like that india will have to play pakistan or forfeit the points. couldnt care less about their countries politics. in soccer world cup qualifying in asia if australia is drawn to play north korea then they have to play against north korea or loose points, the same should apply here!

  • lv_cricket on February 9, 2017, 21:33 GMT

    I have my doubts about the whole proposal. Are we ready to wait for 3-4 years to see the results? Teams would change in that period - fans would loose interest. Why cant we just get all the teams in one country - and get it all done in the format of ODIs or T20s? Championship league as suggested is no different than the current point system. Seriously, except us die hard fans, who is interested in Test cricket and its thrills? Read thru comments section of any test match report in Cricinfo and you can see very few fans really enjoy test cricket to its full. The little battles, the schemes, the plans, the traps, the perseverance of a marathon blocking....all those are mostly lost with the new generation fans. After stumps on first day, they come out and analyse the whole match and predict the winner and looser - while those who enjoy the spectacle that is test cricket, know, that its nothing but a start and there is another 4 more days of battle left. Sigh!

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