Thursday, 2 June 2016

ICC mulls divisional format for Test cricket by 2019

David Richardson, chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), revealed that there could be two divisions in Test cricket from 2019. Amid growing concerns over the future of the format, Richardson, while promoting the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy on Wednesday (June 1), admitted that having a promotion and relegation system in Tests could give meaning to the format.
ICC mulls divisional format for Test cricket by 2019

"There's a general realisation now that, if we're going to keep Test cricket going well into the future, we can't just say it's going to survive on its own," Richardson said. "Unless we can give some meaning to these series beyond the rankings and a trophy, then interest in Test cricket will continue to waiver. The same applies if we allow uncompetitive Test cricket to take place too often.
"If we really want Test cricket to survive, we can't have the number of Test teams diminishing. We have to create a proper competition structure which provides promotion and relegation and opportunities to get to the top," he added.
"A number of member countries are finding that they're not getting as much from their TV rights for bilateral cricket and they see the need to change and introduce some meaningful context. The beauty of leagues is that, in theory, you will have a more competitive competition and teams playing each other that are of a more equal standard.
"They will all be striving for something. There's something at stake. They will be thinking 'We could end up in the Intercontinental Cup if we're not careful here.' Hopefully, that will inspire performance and make the matches more competitive."
Richardson revealed that the new structure could see seven teams in the first division and five in the second, with one team from the second getting promoted and the bottom team from the first division getting relegated in a two-year cycle.
"The feeling is that if you want to sustain interest in a competition, you probably can't go longer than two years with it," Richardson said. "If you had a top division of seven teams, you'd have six tours - three home, three away - over a two-year period. It works well mathematically.
"We could probably make it work in 2019 because hopefully whatever we implement will be better than the current arrangement. It's the sooner the better as far as we're concerned. We might need to have some negotiations with broadcasters who have deals in place, but they might be willing to change. This is a marvellous opportunity for the game."
Richardson also revealed that Shashank Manohar, the new ICC Chairman, is ensuring to provide more opportunities to all 106 members so that one day they can all play Twenty20 Internationals.
"The new chairman has gone out of his way to reverse the sense that the 'Big Three' are in control," Richardson said. "There is a bigger desire to regard the ICC as an organisation with 106 members, not just 10 full-time members who are a select, secluded club with no one else allowed in. We want to be more encompassing and allow opportunities for Associate members to graduate.
"We have 106 members at the moment and we want 106 members to be able to play T20 internationals. Obviously not all against each other at the same time but everybody should want to play the T20 format and it will appeal to all of our members. Then the better ones, the top 30 to 35, would graduate to the 50-over game and be involved in global competitions catering to approximately that number of teams.
"And then Test cricket is towards the other end of the spectrum, where the top 18 teams perhaps are playing a multi-day format of the game, be it the Intercontinental Cup or part of a Test league," he noted.
Richardson also hinted that the likes of Ireland, Afghanistan and Nepal could be awarded Test status when the two division system gets implemented. "Countries that you never thought would have ambitions to play multi-day cricket actually have got the potential. Countries like Nepal, Afghanistan and Ireland are keen. Nepal recently played Namibia in front of 12,000 in a four-day game.
"But Ireland and Nepal aren't getting any opportunities. Zimbabwe hardly play. West Indies are focusing more on T20 cricket. Creating a competition and a financial model that underpins it, it will allow them the resources to fund a team and provide incentives for their players to be available to play Test cricket for them." he observed.
Having an T20 WC in 2018 was another major development discussed by Richardson. With this year's edition getting a tremendous response, calls have grown louder to have a T20 WC every two years as opposed to ICC's original plan of making it a once-in-four-years event like the 50-over World Cup. But Richardson revealed that the ICC is keen on having one now in 2018 if the broadcast partner Star agrees for it. He further added that Sri Lanka, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates were the front-runners to host the mega event.
"We're having discussions now with broadcasters about having a second T20 WC in a four-year cycle," Richardson said. "If they agree - and the board agrees - it would be in 2018 and the venue needs to be decided. The broadcasting agreement says we can't hold another event without them agreeing to it. So they will have a say in where the event will be held.

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