A revolutionary new structure for Test cricket has been rejected at a meeting of the most powerful people in cricket, despite six nations – including Australia – reportedly being in favour of it.
Earlier this year the International Cricket Council said it would begin pushing for a two-tiered Test system with seven nations in the top tier and five in the bottom, with promotion and relegation every ‘cycle’.
A global poll run by the Federation of International Cricketers (FICA) found that 72 per cent of international players were in favour of splitting Test cricket into two divisions.
If the new system was introduced now, New Zealand and West Indies would be in the second division. If it was introduced a month ago, South Africa – world No.1 at the start of the year – would have been in the bottom tier, and would have been joined by new Test nations Afghanistan and Ireland.
The goal of the proposal is to add context to Test matches, which for more than a century have been bi-lateral affairs that have little ‘big picture’ impact beyond the current rankings system, which was introduced in 2003.
The proposal, originally publicised by ICC chief executive Dave Richardson, was greeted with enthusiasm by many in the global cricket community but some, while supportive of adding context to matches, seemed sceptical about how the idea would integrate with the current realities of Test cricket and its myriad of broadcast deals and existing bilateral agreements.
It seems those doubts won out at this week’s chief executives committee meeting in Dubai, with the two-tier proposal reportedly “taken off the table” before it could even go to a vote.
Unsurprisingly the decision falls in line with public comments made by the head of Indian cricket, Anurag Thakur. Speaking ahead of the meeting, the BCCI president said the proposal was “fundamentally against the basic purpose and identity of the ICC.”
Thakur insisted he was against the new system not in the interests of India, but of cricket’s smaller nations.
“On the one hand, we say we need to support teams like West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, while on the other, by bringing up something like this, we will cut their legs,” Thakur said.
After the meeting those comments were backed up by the chief executive of Bangladesh Cricket, Nizamuddin Chowdhury.
Earlier this year Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland reacted very positively to the proposals put forward by the ICC, not just in relation to Test cricket but also for one-day internationals.
Despite this week’s setback, Sutherland was buoyed by the fact the topic of shaking up the current structure of international cricket was being discussed at all.
“Cricket Australia welcomes the progress made in discussions with other member countries in Dubai this week,” Sutherland said. “The workshop provided a forum for all views to be heard and discussed – and for members to work together to build an improved model for bi-lateral cricket played between nations