The future of cricket June 30, 2009

ICC chief suggests four-day Tests

Cricinfo staff

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David Morgan, the ICC president, has hinted that Test cricket may be reduced to four days to protect and enrich the game's oldest format in the face of lucrative Twenty20 leagues like the IPL. The suggestion is one of several radical changes mooted for the new Future Tours Programme, including a two-tier format and day-night Tests to attract more crowds.

"Another thought that many people have, that we are examining is whether Test match cricket can be played over four days rather than five," Morgan told the India Today magazine. "I would be very surprised if within a year you haven't seen some significant changes in Test match cricket."

James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, confirmed that four-day Tests had been raised in strategy discussions during recent ICC meetings in London. Sutherland said the concept was not a "developed thought", but indicated the willingness of cricket's leaders to modernise the game.

"That was just one of a number of initiatives and innovations that were raised in strategy discussion," Sutherland told Cricinfo. "I have heard Mark Taylor talk about four-day Tests as a concept in the past, but I'm not sure if it is something that will be taken on."

Morgan felt it wouldn't be too difficult for players to make a mental shift from five days to four. He added that Test cricket needed many more adjustments, and that special cricket balls would have to be made to facilitate night Tests in white clothing.

"We need better over-rates, better pitches that give a good balance between bat and ball and we need to consider day-night Test cricket," Morgan said. "There is great support for it, the issue is the colour of the ball and the quality of the ball. It would be a pity if Test match cricket - day-night - had to be played with a white ball and therefore coloured clothing.

"We are looking very closely at ball manufacturing design that replicates a red ball, maybe an orange ball, a ball that could still allow us to play in white clothing and still at night."

The two-tier structure was recently put forth by Dave Richardson, the ICC general manager for cricket, to divide the stronger and weaker teams and make the format more competitive. Sutherland has leant his tentative backing to the concept, although is cogniscent of the impact it could have on smaller Test nations.

"Test cricket is the ultimate test of skill, fitness and mental strength, and contests between stronger and weaker teams often lack the competitive aspect of other forms of the game," Sutherland said. "For sport to be entertaining and something that engages with the public, there needs to be uncertainty in terms of the result. We have probably seen in recent years too many matches where that hasn't necessarily been the case.

"We see merit in the idea of similar strength teams being pitted against each other, but there is obviously a flipside to that. If India, for example, is placed in the top-tier, then nations in the second tier would be at a commercial disadvantage with their ability to host them. These are all factors that will be discussed, but the most important element from our point of view is that Test cricket retains quality content and context."

The ICC has also given the go ahead for the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) from October following trials in specific series over the last year. Umpires will have greater scope to decide on bad-light interruptions and the penalities for slow over-rates have also been increased.

With so much emphasis on Twenty20 and the enrichment of Test cricket, Morgan remained confident of the survival of the 50-over game in its current form, now with batting Powerplays and free-hits added to add greater intrigue. He also defended the presence of the Champions Trophy in an already crowded calendar, despite its unpopularity with many of the players.

The Champions Trophy, to be played in South Africa in September, will feature only the top eight teams and is a shorter tournament compared to previous editions.

"It will be played over a shorter period and we are certain it will rejuvenate the Champions Trophy brand," he said. "The brand needed polishing, rejuvenating, it needed remodeling and this event will be a very, very exciting and successful event I'm sure. It will be the event that will give fifty overs cricket its profile back, give it a boost without a doubt."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ricardo on July 6, 2009, 19:46 GMT

    seriously speaking, why dont the ICC address the real reasons behind drawn tests. if you eliminate the weather...then you had the pitches, produced by home test boards, who do not want to loose, biased towards home conditions. they have neutral umpires, but the ICC do not regulate all test pitches...why??? is it because of internal politics?? and why is there no test championship, to give test matches a context or meaning?? we have neutral umpires now, which is good, & there is disscussion about a two teir system,but the pitches, when will they learn. and is there solution to try to make test matches closer to 20twenty?? what next. 4 day test match, with each team batting after each other on each of the four days??? for 100 overs in the day??? maybe i shouldn't tempt fate!!!! why bare the ICC so crazy!!!!

  • santhosh on July 5, 2009, 16:43 GMT

    australian cricket is the primary reason why test cricket has managed to stay afloat. since the appointment of allan border at the helm, aus cricket has never looked back. each successive captain has managed to do one better than his predecessor. sporting declarations, ruthlessness on the field, scoring rate, margin of series victories, etc have all contributed to factors that makes their game watchable. on the other hand, teams like india are content with 1-0 margin victories in test series, never want to force victories if they dont have the upper hand at the end of first innings, and are quite happy to play out draws. the need of the hour is not to change the rules to accomodate the shortcoming of the players, but to change the mindset of players. if rules have to be amended, they must be done in such a manner that teams and players are forced out of their comfort zones and to learn to live and die by the sword.

  • Willem on July 4, 2009, 15:36 GMT

    Why is everyone worrying about the fate of test cricket because of t20, when it is odi's that will obviously suffer first??? In 4day domestic leagues, the pace of the games aren't muck faster, the only difference is the fact that there are more draws, which nobody wants to see. Leave tests cricket as it is, if tests were competed over 4 days, would we have seen such a wonderful SA vs Aus test series (home and away) recently? Oh, and as for hermithead, if that is how you feel about the game, find a different website to voice your opinions

  • Hadrium on July 3, 2009, 13:19 GMT

    My Suggestion:

    The Idea of home and away series is great

    1. Reduce numbers of Tests in a series to 2 (playing 5 test series will be too lengthy, like 3 ODI, 2 tests, 1 T20 )

    2. Calculate points on win and losses

    3. Bonus Points on inning defeat/less or no points in draw matches (it will force teams to go for win, and force home team to prepare result oriented pitches)

    3. Away wins or Home wins Point System (Just like in premier league Football)

    4. Complete this circle in 4 years and the two teams with maximum points play final after every ODI World cup

  • santhosh on July 2, 2009, 16:15 GMT

    a suggestion. let it be mandatory for the team batting 4th to chase down the target if: *the target set is NOT higher than any of the previous 3 innings of the match and *the run rate set for the target is not higher than the defending team's average runrate. Teams wanting to force victory will be wary of batting towards 'safe' targets, and with smart declarations, captains can make it binding on the opposition to go for a victory. an example: team 1 (first inn) 360 team 2 (first inn)-190 team 1 in the 2nd inn has two options: A-to declare at 188 or fewer to make it binding on team 2 to chase(assuming the asking rate is less than their own). if team 2 fails to chase 359 but are not bowled out, team 1 still wins. B-to bat as long as they wish if they are confident of bowling team 2 out (existing situation) in case rain curtails the 4th innings, if 50% of the remaining overs have been bowled, then targets can be revised the way it is done for limited over matches.

  • Pradeep on July 1, 2009, 18:24 GMT

    Leave Test Cricket as it is. That is the way the beautiful game should be played!! Market the T20 format!! take it to the world and use T20 to make cricket popular!!! take to the US and China and Europe.. why isn't the ICC trying to include T20s in the Olympics. as Gilchrist brilliantly noted it is a win-win for both the Olympics and cricket!! guys lets start a campaign to take T20 to the Olympics!!!

  • Ricardo on July 1, 2009, 17:43 GMT

    people like hermithead should be banned from this debate!!! you dont like test cricket think its boring fine......even the people who are defending test cricket so t20's value. if the fans like it & it makes money...fine. its entertainment, but dont start comparing and telling the world that it is "superior" & "more skillful" leave test cricket one is asking non test cricket lovers to watch the game. I enjoy t20, but leave test cricket alone.

  • Zeeshan on July 1, 2009, 17:26 GMT

    I think it's a dumb idea. First of all, please let test cricket be! Changing the time frame will change the mindset of the teams and players and ruin the texture of test cricket. Secondly, the excuse that it will eliminate dull draws, is so vain! In fact there will be more draws if anything because strong teams will not have enough time to finish two innings! A BIG NO to 4-day tests!

  • Mohamed on July 1, 2009, 17:15 GMT

    4 day Tests = BAD IDEA. What is killing Test cricket is too much cricket. My suggestions: 1. Reduce the amount of Test Matches played so that a great player may play closer to 70 Tests over a long career instead of 100 or more. 2. Find a happy medium btw ODIs and 20/20 - say 35/35 ODIs. WI next tour of Australia will consist of 3 Tests, 5 ODIs and 2 T/20. This is too much crammed in a short time. In the older days (my youth) the visiting team will play a 1st class team (usually a county, state or territory) in a 4 day match followed by the Test match. This helped the smaller and less wealthy countries develop & prepare their players for higher competition and made matches more competitive. Whatever the case, playing Tests in the night or shortening matches to 4 days is not the answer. Perhaps the ICC needs to look at marketing strategies. As a W Indian living in US and with some $$ to spend, I would like a vacation package to somewhere that will include a Test match.

  • Prakash on July 1, 2009, 14:26 GMT

    Reducing the number of days to 4 will not make the crowd to come to test arena. Instead of reducing the days, why cant we stipulate number of overs per innings to 220 over for 1 team. So that each team as a pressure to set the target. Which will bring more excitement to the game and also there wont be any draw games.

    This solution will bring more crowd to the test arena and this will test the skills of the players too.

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