Test cricket April 25, 2012

An idea whose time may come?

I wouldn't mind seeing games of five-day cricket between two teams whose selections were not limited by national boundaries
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Yesterday, like many other sports fans, I tuned in to watch Barcelona take on Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League. (Thanks to my work schedule, I watched the game on replay, studiously avoiding reading the scores; this meant staying off my Twitter feed!) As I watched the game, I was reminded yet again of, how, despite being an unabashed fan of nation-based Test cricket, I wouldn't mind seeing games of five-day cricket between two teams whose selections were not limited by national boundaries.

World XI squads are not just a parlor game exercise, of course. Many of them have actually taken the field: in World Series Cricket, the 1971-72 Australia versus World XI encounters, the 1987 MCC versus World XI game at Lord's, and of course the ICC-organized Super Series Test in 2005/2006. (This last 'Test' continues to rankle statisticians by its official status.) The 1971-72 series produced some great individual performances - most notably the 254 by Garfield Sobers that Don Bradman reckoned among the best he had ever seen, and an incredible 8-29 by Dennis Lillee; World Series Cricket also produced some very high-quality cricket, though it is not clear how much of this was produced by the World XI as opposed to the 'national' teams playing. The ICC Super Series Test, unfortunately, was universally derided as a dud.

What seems clear from these experiments is that World XIs brought together for one-off, 'exhibition' encounters tend not to do so well (with some notable exceptions of course). But a multinational outfit given some time to gell could start developing those intangible qualities that ensure the success of a group of individuals. And thus far, the pattern in world cricket has been to pit Nation versus World XI as opposed to Multinational Outfit #1 versus Multinational Outfit #2. Perhaps a series of these encounters could produce some high-quality five-day cricket that would pit the world's best players against each other in an extended examination of their skills.

But where in today's world of cricket would such an opportunity arise? Well, we do have some multinational outfits playing cricket today in many different competitions: English county cricket, the Big Bash, the IPL, and so on. Each of these, unfortunately, is subject to various residency constraints and quotas that restrict the number of overseas players that can play for 'local' teams.

One solution might be for the new entrants on the scene--the franchises of the IPL and the Big Bash for instance--to consider diversifying their wares. Non-stop, back-to-back T20s might become monotonous; how about a few Super Tests with residency requirements relaxed so that we could have World XIs--not the best in each case, but diverse assemblages of players drawn from all over the world without regard to whether they were drawn from ICC Full or Associate Members?

Yes, I agree, this does sound a little crazy. In this world of cricket, yes. But consider, if you will, the following: the ICC is just a world league whose 'member franchises' have to follow very strict residency requirements. There is little to no movement across teams; if you are a Test level player but your 'national team' already has its eleven selected, you are done for. A league that didn't have such strict residency requirements, that allowed movement between rosters, might be able to find this kind of player an opportunity to play. And it might be able to provide high quality cricket in the format so beloved of many cricket fans.

Of course, it is unlikely that IPL or Big Bash franchises will consider Super Tests. But perhaps more ambitious franchises, casting their eyes over the way cricket is organized today, might consider taking this challenge on. Stranger things have happened in the world of sport.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Osadi Peiris on April 30, 2012, 5:12 GMT

    Afro-Asia cup was the closest match to this concept. The international cricketing calender is quite hectic already, and there won't be much space for anything new. How about inventing a leasing policy where some of the stand-by players from the top tiered countries, get a chance to appear for counties which have lesser abundance of talent. >>> Proper rules could be devised to limit talent drain (e.g. payments not to exceed the evaluations of the Cricket Board of the originating country & ICC), as well as to safeguard the chances for local players (e.g. limiting the number of international players per side per fixture or the overall squad)

  • Alexander Czarnecki on April 29, 2012, 23:08 GMT

    A combined Associate/Affiliate XI to play the test nations as earlier this year(Associate/Affiliate XI vs England) would be great.

  • Alan Harrison on April 29, 2012, 21:44 GMT

    Slightly different point, but with the "supertest" recorded as an official test, there seems to me no justification for the 1970 England vs. World XI matches also to be regarded as tests, as they were billed at the time. There's also a case for regarding the 1971-2 and 1987 matches as test matches, on account of the quality of cricket, and when one considers that the first tests in 1876-7 were not so regarded at the time. Why can't Sobers' 254, Lillee's 8-29, Alan Jones only match for England, and Gavaskar's century and Marshall's excellent bowling at Lords in 1987 be regarded as part of their test records?

  • Anonymous on April 29, 2012, 20:49 GMT

    Interesting idea... for TESTS it might be a little difficult and for me a little too 'well done'... I actually like the 'one nation' test teams... its.. lets just say 'pure'... BUT as far as T20 is concerned I say recruit all the 'stars' from around the world... divide them into (ten twelve fifteen twenty) teams (just like the soccer clubs in Europe) and start a lets say CRICKET ALLSTAR LEAGUE and have fun with it and make some money... and instead of the IPLs and BPLs and BIG BASHs... hold the league matches in different country each year and it can be assured by setting aside time for it in the ICC calender let the countries the ICC and the STAR players make some money... personally I have no use for the PLs or the BASHs where more than half players are unknown to me...

  • Samuel on April 29, 2012, 14:04 GMT

    I agree about the idea of an Associates XI and said so when England played one before the Pakistan series! It would give them an opportunity to play first class cricket against high quality opposition, it can only be a good thing. They could also tour the world - for example, they could be in England for the Northern Hemisphere summer playing a warm up game with whichever two teams are touring, before travelling to the subcontinent in October and November, before maybe moving on to Australia or South Africa after Christmas, giving them experience in different conditions. They could also play cricket against the likes of the England Lions or Australia A to give them even more games.

  • jendelui on April 29, 2012, 12:43 GMT

    I find this idea a really exciting prospect! And also, the idea suggested by mark for some sort of associate best Test XI series I think would be fantastic as well.

  • slartybartfast on April 28, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    I can't really see the point. Team sport is all about local or national pride, so why would anyone care to support a random selection of players representing nobody?

  • boynamedsue on April 28, 2012, 6:46 GMT

    I don't see the point of this. The reason IPL doesn't interest me is that there is no fun in watching a group of players temporarily competing under a flag of convenience for money and bragging rights. Do you think Kevin Pietersen feels any real affection or commitment towards the Goa Superbuffaloes or whoever it is he plays for?

    These tests would be shows rather than real matches.

    I would enjoy a championship which involved Asia, Africa, Europe and Americas, and Australasia taking each other on. But it won't happen.

  • Harvey on April 27, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    What you don't explain is WHY you would like to see such a fixture take place. Isn't the international fixture list overcrowded enough already? What's more, how many people would actually want to watch such games? Most fans like to be able to identify with one of the teams, which is unlikely to happen with a random collection of players. A Combined Associate and Affiliate XI (with a more catchy name) would possibly be something to think about, but beyond that I see no feasibility or reason for such a scheme.

  • Ruben81 on April 27, 2012, 11:54 GMT

    Or an asian xi to tour every 4 years to play test series against aus,eng & rsa,just like b&i lions does in rugby union.

  • Osadi Peiris on April 30, 2012, 5:12 GMT

    Afro-Asia cup was the closest match to this concept. The international cricketing calender is quite hectic already, and there won't be much space for anything new. How about inventing a leasing policy where some of the stand-by players from the top tiered countries, get a chance to appear for counties which have lesser abundance of talent. >>> Proper rules could be devised to limit talent drain (e.g. payments not to exceed the evaluations of the Cricket Board of the originating country & ICC), as well as to safeguard the chances for local players (e.g. limiting the number of international players per side per fixture or the overall squad)

  • Alexander Czarnecki on April 29, 2012, 23:08 GMT

    A combined Associate/Affiliate XI to play the test nations as earlier this year(Associate/Affiliate XI vs England) would be great.

  • Alan Harrison on April 29, 2012, 21:44 GMT

    Slightly different point, but with the "supertest" recorded as an official test, there seems to me no justification for the 1970 England vs. World XI matches also to be regarded as tests, as they were billed at the time. There's also a case for regarding the 1971-2 and 1987 matches as test matches, on account of the quality of cricket, and when one considers that the first tests in 1876-7 were not so regarded at the time. Why can't Sobers' 254, Lillee's 8-29, Alan Jones only match for England, and Gavaskar's century and Marshall's excellent bowling at Lords in 1987 be regarded as part of their test records?

  • Anonymous on April 29, 2012, 20:49 GMT

    Interesting idea... for TESTS it might be a little difficult and for me a little too 'well done'... I actually like the 'one nation' test teams... its.. lets just say 'pure'... BUT as far as T20 is concerned I say recruit all the 'stars' from around the world... divide them into (ten twelve fifteen twenty) teams (just like the soccer clubs in Europe) and start a lets say CRICKET ALLSTAR LEAGUE and have fun with it and make some money... and instead of the IPLs and BPLs and BIG BASHs... hold the league matches in different country each year and it can be assured by setting aside time for it in the ICC calender let the countries the ICC and the STAR players make some money... personally I have no use for the PLs or the BASHs where more than half players are unknown to me...

  • Samuel on April 29, 2012, 14:04 GMT

    I agree about the idea of an Associates XI and said so when England played one before the Pakistan series! It would give them an opportunity to play first class cricket against high quality opposition, it can only be a good thing. They could also tour the world - for example, they could be in England for the Northern Hemisphere summer playing a warm up game with whichever two teams are touring, before travelling to the subcontinent in October and November, before maybe moving on to Australia or South Africa after Christmas, giving them experience in different conditions. They could also play cricket against the likes of the England Lions or Australia A to give them even more games.

  • jendelui on April 29, 2012, 12:43 GMT

    I find this idea a really exciting prospect! And also, the idea suggested by mark for some sort of associate best Test XI series I think would be fantastic as well.

  • slartybartfast on April 28, 2012, 23:24 GMT

    I can't really see the point. Team sport is all about local or national pride, so why would anyone care to support a random selection of players representing nobody?

  • boynamedsue on April 28, 2012, 6:46 GMT

    I don't see the point of this. The reason IPL doesn't interest me is that there is no fun in watching a group of players temporarily competing under a flag of convenience for money and bragging rights. Do you think Kevin Pietersen feels any real affection or commitment towards the Goa Superbuffaloes or whoever it is he plays for?

    These tests would be shows rather than real matches.

    I would enjoy a championship which involved Asia, Africa, Europe and Americas, and Australasia taking each other on. But it won't happen.

  • Harvey on April 27, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    What you don't explain is WHY you would like to see such a fixture take place. Isn't the international fixture list overcrowded enough already? What's more, how many people would actually want to watch such games? Most fans like to be able to identify with one of the teams, which is unlikely to happen with a random collection of players. A Combined Associate and Affiliate XI (with a more catchy name) would possibly be something to think about, but beyond that I see no feasibility or reason for such a scheme.

  • Ruben81 on April 27, 2012, 11:54 GMT

    Or an asian xi to tour every 4 years to play test series against aus,eng & rsa,just like b&i lions does in rugby union.

  • Herman De Wael on April 27, 2012, 6:42 GMT

    Why not make the current test teams cover the globe? Zimbabwe could pick any African player (not SA), so the Kenyans and Namibians would have something to vie for. Bangladesh could pick players from Afghanistan, Nepal or UAE. West Indies would effectively become all-America. And New Zealand can try out some Papuas or even Japanese. England could either become Europe, or lose Wales to a "rest-of-Europe" side that would include the Irish and Dutch. I believe such an 11-side basis would give every player, regardless of passport, a chance to play test cricket. And there's a side benefit: if players like Eoin Morgan could play test cricket without switching allegiance, the Irish One-Day side would be more competitive. In such a set-up, we could also see ODI teams from Wales and Jamaica!

  • Theena on April 27, 2012, 5:42 GMT

    Because the international schedule isn't packed like a can of sardines already.

  • Anonymous on April 27, 2012, 3:04 GMT

    I love this idea. What about a four-team regional competition featuring "Asian" (Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh), "Oceanian" (Australia & New Zealand), "African" (RSA & Zimbabwe), and "Atlantic" (England & WI) teams?

  • CJTavare on April 26, 2012, 23:07 GMT

    No, no, no! I don't object to the concept of a 'Best of the Rest', at least for an exhibition 4- or 5-day game, like the MCC v Champion County game in Dubai - imagine ten Doeschate and O'Brien batting in the middle order together - but multinational teams at Test level? What, then, would be the point in having national teams? Nuh-uh to your uh-huh.

  • Samir Siddiqui on April 26, 2012, 18:24 GMT

    I have been actually toying with another idea, since the start of this IPL season. That is: To make International criket more competitive, especially Tests and ODIs which at the moment do not boast more than 4 competitive teams with the others playing spoilers occasionally, so to even up the talent pool, if the teams are allowed, say in Tests, 3 foreign players to play on a contract basis,without cvhanging their passports, then this would encourage teams to offset their weaknesses.I agree perhaps the stronger ones would get the better players,but still it won't harm if a Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Kenya can get a few plyers already dropped from thier sides due to their being on the wrong side of 30s etc.Moreover the 3 lowest ranked sides could be given 4-5 foreign player slots,just to offset the bias. When I mean allowing 3 foreign players it should mean, only 3 that can be recruited and not that three allowed on the playing XI.This would ensure nations would be very careful in choosing.

  • alf on April 26, 2012, 13:32 GMT

    I think the ICC should seriously consider creating an "Associates" Test team who play one or two Tests a year against the different teams. Then the good players from Holland, Ireland, Kenya etc could actually play Tests. I guarantee they would be very much in favour of it - Test Cricket for them is this exclusive club they can never be part of (unless they switch countries like Morgan, or Hick)

  • Grant on April 26, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    The West Indies ist the prime example of a test side not limited by national boundaries. Why can't nations combine to create regional or continental super-sides, eg. AUS+NZ, SA+ZIM+Namibia+Kenia, Eng+Ire+Scot+NL, Ind+Pak+BD+SRL, WI+Canada+USA.

  • Kamran Wasti on April 26, 2012, 8:48 GMT

    Samir,

    This is Kamran again. My take:

    1. No multinational tests except one possible case: A combined XI of ICC Associates. Instead I would like to resume high profile tours (all first class) that are nicely covered, feature less commercial rubbish and feature aggressive fast bowlers. Respect First Class and Test cricket. 2. Give FC status to Kerry Packer matches. I wonder why people don't get digestive disorders when IPL is deemed official but Kerry Pakcer matches are not. 3. Apply the Packer formula once more: Bring in fast-bowlers and aggressive spinners. 4. Don't tweak with ODIs too much - just make pitches that allow good teams to defend 200 under normal rules. 5. Don't fiddle with grounds - one of the trademarks of Aussie grounds were huge boundaries. Let Adelaide Oval look like the way it should.

  • getsetgopk on April 26, 2012, 4:45 GMT

    Yea and then whose going to stop BCCI and the Indians from banning Pakistan players play in it?

  • mark on April 26, 2012, 2:48 GMT

    I always wondered, what if the associate nations got to field a combined test XI to play in a one off test match, or better yet, a 3 match test series, against one of the bottom 2 ranked ICC test match sides every year, or every 2 years.

    That way everyone in every nation has the opportunity to play test cricket.

    OK, this is nothing compared to a world XI type thing, we're talking about the best players from each of the associate sides, but that could turn into something pretty cool. E.g. what about that guy from holland ryan ten doeschate, or other top associate players who unfortunately never get to see the highest level?

  • Satish on April 25, 2012, 23:13 GMT

    That's a nice article... How about the present IPL teams, maybe include all Test Players, and get rid of quota of foreign players.. Let's see which team would come up on top???

  • gareth on April 25, 2012, 19:47 GMT

    I like the idea. I am in favour of restructuring cricket along the lines of football but not something like which give utmost importance to IPL (a horrible mixture of NBA and EPL). We can definitely have the power house matches like those in champions league but that requires sincere efforts to promote cricket rather than to promote a particular cricket board. One of the most drastic change would require a player being bound to play for only one franchise in the whole year rather than having numerous stints with IPL, BBL etc. Imagine a match between these two world XI sides (one player each from a test playing nation)

    Hashim Amla Tamim Iqbal Mahela Jayawardena Jonathan Trott AB Devilliers Mahendra Singh Dhoni Darren Sammy Staurt Broad Saeed Ajmal Vernon Philander Ben Hilfenhaus

    Alaistair Cook Virender Sehwag Kumar Sangakara Micheal Clarke Shivenarine ChanderPaul MisbahulHaq ShakibulHasan Daniel Vettori Dale Steyn Graeme Swann James Anderson

  • Robert Sleigh on April 25, 2012, 18:38 GMT

    Give the top players from the non-test and developing nations the chance to play against the bigger names!

  • Andyzaltzmannshair on April 25, 2012, 18:30 GMT

    You're living in a world where Pakistanis can't play in the IPL because of various reasons. What chance then of multinational supertests. Ask yourself would the BCCI or ECB willingly let their players play under another flag? Heck the BCCI doesn't even like its players playing in foreign leagues, even when it would be good for their development. Never gonna happen.

  • anil on April 25, 2012, 16:34 GMT

    Hey Samir - I really like the idea.

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  • anil on April 25, 2012, 16:34 GMT

    Hey Samir - I really like the idea.

  • Andyzaltzmannshair on April 25, 2012, 18:30 GMT

    You're living in a world where Pakistanis can't play in the IPL because of various reasons. What chance then of multinational supertests. Ask yourself would the BCCI or ECB willingly let their players play under another flag? Heck the BCCI doesn't even like its players playing in foreign leagues, even when it would be good for their development. Never gonna happen.

  • Robert Sleigh on April 25, 2012, 18:38 GMT

    Give the top players from the non-test and developing nations the chance to play against the bigger names!

  • gareth on April 25, 2012, 19:47 GMT

    I like the idea. I am in favour of restructuring cricket along the lines of football but not something like which give utmost importance to IPL (a horrible mixture of NBA and EPL). We can definitely have the power house matches like those in champions league but that requires sincere efforts to promote cricket rather than to promote a particular cricket board. One of the most drastic change would require a player being bound to play for only one franchise in the whole year rather than having numerous stints with IPL, BBL etc. Imagine a match between these two world XI sides (one player each from a test playing nation)

    Hashim Amla Tamim Iqbal Mahela Jayawardena Jonathan Trott AB Devilliers Mahendra Singh Dhoni Darren Sammy Staurt Broad Saeed Ajmal Vernon Philander Ben Hilfenhaus

    Alaistair Cook Virender Sehwag Kumar Sangakara Micheal Clarke Shivenarine ChanderPaul MisbahulHaq ShakibulHasan Daniel Vettori Dale Steyn Graeme Swann James Anderson

  • Satish on April 25, 2012, 23:13 GMT

    That's a nice article... How about the present IPL teams, maybe include all Test Players, and get rid of quota of foreign players.. Let's see which team would come up on top???

  • mark on April 26, 2012, 2:48 GMT

    I always wondered, what if the associate nations got to field a combined test XI to play in a one off test match, or better yet, a 3 match test series, against one of the bottom 2 ranked ICC test match sides every year, or every 2 years.

    That way everyone in every nation has the opportunity to play test cricket.

    OK, this is nothing compared to a world XI type thing, we're talking about the best players from each of the associate sides, but that could turn into something pretty cool. E.g. what about that guy from holland ryan ten doeschate, or other top associate players who unfortunately never get to see the highest level?

  • getsetgopk on April 26, 2012, 4:45 GMT

    Yea and then whose going to stop BCCI and the Indians from banning Pakistan players play in it?

  • Kamran Wasti on April 26, 2012, 8:48 GMT

    Samir,

    This is Kamran again. My take:

    1. No multinational tests except one possible case: A combined XI of ICC Associates. Instead I would like to resume high profile tours (all first class) that are nicely covered, feature less commercial rubbish and feature aggressive fast bowlers. Respect First Class and Test cricket. 2. Give FC status to Kerry Packer matches. I wonder why people don't get digestive disorders when IPL is deemed official but Kerry Pakcer matches are not. 3. Apply the Packer formula once more: Bring in fast-bowlers and aggressive spinners. 4. Don't tweak with ODIs too much - just make pitches that allow good teams to defend 200 under normal rules. 5. Don't fiddle with grounds - one of the trademarks of Aussie grounds were huge boundaries. Let Adelaide Oval look like the way it should.

  • Grant on April 26, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    The West Indies ist the prime example of a test side not limited by national boundaries. Why can't nations combine to create regional or continental super-sides, eg. AUS+NZ, SA+ZIM+Namibia+Kenia, Eng+Ire+Scot+NL, Ind+Pak+BD+SRL, WI+Canada+USA.

  • alf on April 26, 2012, 13:32 GMT

    I think the ICC should seriously consider creating an "Associates" Test team who play one or two Tests a year against the different teams. Then the good players from Holland, Ireland, Kenya etc could actually play Tests. I guarantee they would be very much in favour of it - Test Cricket for them is this exclusive club they can never be part of (unless they switch countries like Morgan, or Hick)