MCC news September 22, 2009

Crowe unveils plans to save Tests

Cricinfo staff

Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe has come up with an idea to reinvigorate Test cricket: a knockout Test championship to be held every year with a final to be played at Lord's. Crowe, who is also a member of the MCC's World Cricket Committee, said the games would ideally eventually become day-night Tests.

Crowe will present his plan to the ICC in November and also sent his idea to the Sydney Morning Herald, in which he mentioned the potential danger to the longest format. His idea was specifically designed to lift the flagging interest in contests between lower-ranked teams, as their games would become elimination matches.

''If we don't do something soon then the bottom teams in particular will wilt away and the bottom will fall out of the pinnacle format of the game," Crowe said. "Test cricket needs a meaning and a new motivation among all these other shorter version comps that are scheduled every year. It needs a Test champion, annually.''

Among the issues that could hamper the committee's proposal is the sharing of broadcast revenue during the finals by the concerned boards. India and England are believed to have opposed the Test championship idea because it would mean splitting the profits of their lucrative television deals.

But Crowe had a ready solution. ''If hosting quarter-finals is shared, then you don't have an issue with sharing rights," he said. "This is for the top eight teams only, which would exclude Bangladesh in the next stage. But if they get up to top eight in next stage then in they go.

''For those who make the semis and finals then the pie is shared with them. Obviously, [the] ECB would demand a hosting fee for the final and semis - and why not? Or the semis can be played earlier if the two teams involved want to arrange it, higher ranking gets advantage or if the event is already scheduled in the FTP. These are smaller problems to overcome.''

The ICC is keen on a Test championship in some form, but developing such a plan that is welcomed by all countries has been problematic. The ICC's chief executive, Haroon Lorgat, said a Test championship could be implemented by 2012, if all the ICC's members agreed.

"I would like to convince people that the way to ensure Test cricket survives is through a championship model," Lorgat told the Guardian. "The only two countries who do not see the argument are India and England, but debate is growing all the time. The MCC seem to have come out in favour but when I met the ECB recently it was the wrong time to tackle them in detail. They were too high on the Ashes."

The ICC would need to reconsider the Future Tours Programme (FTP), which requires countries to regularly play each other home and away in series of at least two Tests while allowing the national boards to hold longer series, such as the five-match Ashes campaigns. However, Crowe believed the good of the game must be put ahead of national interests.

''There are pitfalls with the FTP scheduled years out so they must, over the next full stage of the FTP, ensure it rotates fairly and everyone gets a go to host quarter-finals," Crowe said. "Like all good competitions, everyone starts with a fair chance. This gives incentive to the lower teams to be motivated every year. The motivation is to play the final at Lord's. That is truly meaningful.

''When a series is drawn then rankings apply - so that means every Test played has a meaning. So what we are creating here is by using an already existing schedule, we are able to use a simple knockout format to crown the Test champion each year. This we could call the Test Cricket Open.''

Tony Lewis, the chairman of the MCC World Cricket Committee, which also counts Steve Waugh, Anil Kumble, Mike Atherton, Rahul Dravid and Andy Flower among its board members, said: ''We're quite happy for this proposal to get knocked down by a better idea. But I think we all would agree that something needs to be done. As long as the ICC bring cricket sense to political bias, then things should be possible.''

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ricardo on September 26, 2009, 23:22 GMT

    I agree with the league format. The one thing I would say is ridiculous from the out set is to have a test championship decided over a single test match. Even ODIs & twenty20 matches are played over a series. What ever the format it should be agreed to have a minimum of 3 tests per series, wiht the possiblity of having 5 tests for the semi final/final series of the championship. I also think a league format is the most fair method. The main thing is test fans want equality. Other than the West Indies sides of the 70's & 80's, and the Steve Waugh's Aussie's (not to mention the chappell brothers side with Lillee & thommo), when we truly knew the dominant side in world cricket the world champions of cricket have never been established and fans have always had to look to the 50 over ODI winners for a conclusive verdict. No real test fan rates the points ranking system. A proper system needs to be created but not crammed into a few months for convienience sake.

  • Tony on September 24, 2009, 23:32 GMT

    The Test Championship should be in a league format and have two divisions of six teams.The upper division should be test nations ranked 1-6 currently.The second tier should be the next four teams in the rankings and grant test status to Kenya and Ireland to make up the other two.A simple points structure is required:5 pts for a win,1 pt each for a draw,1 pt for first innings lead,and 1 point if you win by an innings.The top four in The top division play off for the world title. 1st v 4th and 2nd v 3rd.The bottom two sides in the top tier play-off against the top two in the second tier to decide promotion and relegation.If the title is to be decided annually,then only one game home and away is possible.If three match series are used then two years are needed.I confess I am ambivalent toward ODIs,though they are still popular worldwide and an entry level for non test playing nations.The status quo and the FTP are not options.

  • Arron on September 23, 2009, 15:45 GMT

    Much as I admire Martin Crowe for devising something and trying to drum up support, I think Tony Lewis is closer to the mark when he says "we're happy for this to be knocked down by a better idea." In the interests of credibility, the quarter-finals/semi-finals have to be based on actual matches and not just current rankings. The basis for a knockout should be a series of at least 3 Tests, and not just a single match. Two-match series should go, and good riddance, frankly. The final must be a longer series (4 or 5 Tests). Drawn series should be settled by a carefully-designed but transparent points-per-Test system, not by the opaque ICC rankings. The upshot of all this is that a league format (to decide qualification for a knockout stage) is an essential pre-requisite for any WTC idea to work. I believe such a system should permanently replace the FTP, but the signs aren't promising.

  • Terry on September 23, 2009, 14:22 GMT

    I like the idea of a knockout test series, but would also include Intercontential Cup 1st & 2nd (IC1-2). I would have it as follows: [R0] Sep-Nov Y0: Y1 Qualifiers (5th - 10th & IC1-2 playoff) [R1] Jan-Mar Y1: Quarters (1st - 4th vs Qualifiers) [R2] May-Jul Y1: Semis (four winners) [R3] Sep-Nov Y1: Final (two winners). [R0] Sep-Nov Y1: Y2 Qualifiers (R1 losers vs IC1-4 playoff)

    Each round should be 2 tests home & away (back to back). Thus each year top 2 teams play 12 tests, next 6 teams play 8 tests and next 4 teams play 4 tests. Thus would link I Cup with test cricket, and push teams to perform to play cricket that year.

    I Cup could also be changed to be yearly, which includes teams that lost in last years [R0] and the other associate teams. I Cup would play Jan - Jul each year (2 groups of 6), with top 4 teams playing in [R0] Sep-Nov for following years Test Championship.

  • Ricardo on September 23, 2009, 12:42 GMT

    Well done Martin Crowe!!! even for all those who think his idea has flaws and needs working on, at least hew has an idea and has submitted it. even all of you guys who are making alternative suggestions can admit that something has to be done. I know many people have lots of ideas to the test solution so it's good of all test cricket lovers discuss this. why don't the ICC have a suggestion forum?? to get ideas for test cricket fans??? in professional football, the supporters have afilliations and the FA regularly consult them on various things. also why does the test cahmpionship have to be done in 12 months? why can't it be run over 18 months, or 2 years on a cyclical basis??

  • Cheyne on September 23, 2009, 5:14 GMT

    What about 2 or 3 test series, 2 tests if one team wins them both or wins the first and draws the second, one played at home and one away. 3 tests if they win 1 each and played a neutral venue like Dubai. Divide the teams into 2 groups, teams 1-5 and teams 6-10 with the 2 tops teams from each group playing finals. the finals could be the same format as the rounds and played with the winner of each group playing and the runners up of each group playing. this could result in upsets but the most likely being that the 2 best teams play. The grand final should again be a best of 3, with home and away portions and a 3rd playoff if needed at somewhere like lords (if neutral). This means the winners play 12 - 18 tests in a year and the lesser teams play 8 - 12 tests. Each country gets to see a good amount of cricket and it can be scheduled around the ODI and 20/20 tournaments as there is no extended/locked in period where 3 tests have to be played.

  • Andrew on September 22, 2009, 22:33 GMT

    Seems a bit harsh to exclude Bangladesh, who trounced WI recently, just because they're 9th - or any existing Test country. Why not have an 8v9 prelim round? Then the top 7 join in the QFs. Will the QFs be sudden death or over a 3-match series? What about a qualifying tournament (Intercontinental Cup?) amongst the top Associates for a place in the next year's competition, making it 10 teams - and don't forget Zimbabwe who may be back one day. Lord's is a great venue but there are others for hosting final, eg MCG, Joburg, Mumbai - should be rotated. And perhaps every 2 years, cos we still need series like the Ashes and IvP, SAvA etc - and we want to avoid a situation like in rugby where tours nowadays only have test matches - not to mention ODI World Cup and T20 championships. What about IPL and T20 Champs Lge? Timing issues - seasons are not 12-month anywhere, eg Eng couldn't host QF in Feb. Idea good, like much of Martin Crowe's thoughts, but a few questions need addressing.

  • Vidyadhar on September 22, 2009, 18:34 GMT

    The league format idea is by far the best. 2 groups. ( Ranks 1,3,5,7 and 9 and the 2-10 ranked teams ) Play each other in 3 match series, home and away. All these over a 3 year period. The semis and the final the 4 th. year. Play offs for the 3 and 4 th. places. That will give each team irrespective of rank ten matches. It will certainly put an end to the 2 match series.

  • Henry on September 22, 2009, 16:28 GMT

    as much as I like the idea and I think it will make for interesting, exciting viewing, it misses the point of test cricket, which is that it is a story that unfolds over a summer. This will end up being like an ODI tournament, in which the odd good spell or innings will define a match.

  • Jitin on September 22, 2009, 14:02 GMT

    Here's a proposal. Have an annual test championship that involves the top 10 teams split into 2 groups of 5 teams. Each team plays a home and away game with every other team in it's group (that's 8 tests per annum for each country). The top 2 teams from each group go into the semis (played as a home and away game again), followed by a grand final (at a rotating venue).

    Everyone gets to play a reasonable number of test matches each year against at least 4 major competitors; The structure leaves enough space for other formats like T20 & a re-jigged 50-over game; There is no knock-out, and each country gets to host at least 4 tests each year; And the current 1-on-1 test series format gets replaced by a competitive test league.

    What's not to like?

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