ICC news December 19, 2013

World Test Championship 'in doubt'


The future of the World Test Championship has been thrown into doubt after it emerged that broadcasters and sponsors still hold grave reservations over the value of the event and the various parties organising it have failed to reach any agreement over the format.

The inaugural Test Championship, which the ICC hopes will become the showpiece event in the Test schedule, is due to be staged in the UK in 2017. But, with only four teams due to compete - the top four in the Test rankings as of December 31, 2016 - doubts remain over its global appeal.

The key concern of the sponsors and broadcasters is the identities of the competing teams. If any of the major draws cards - especially India or England - should fail to qualify, the attraction and value of the event would fall markedly. England's rapid descent in the world rankings has rendered this a real danger and could also result in some of the games being played in less-than-full stadiums.

The ICC's current broadcast deal ends in 2015. The last deal, agreed with ESPN Star Sports* in 2006, was worth around $1.1 billion and helped fund a huge increase in funding for Associate and Affiliate nations. Any decrease in the value of the next deal, a genuine possibility bearing in mind broadcasters' lukewarm response to the World Test Championship, will have serious consequences for the game at every level in most parts of the world.

Little progress has been made with the practicalities of the event, either. While a simple option would see the event consist of nothing more than two semi-finals and a final, there are doubts over what happens in the event of poor weather - hardly an unlikely event in the UK - and whether such a format provides enough cricket to capture the imagination of spectators and the interest of sponsors.

Any other format - such as round-robin - threatens to become too long, with at least three days rest required between games to ensure any sort of veracity in the event. The fact that day-night Test cricket remains an unrealised dream - and, in England at least, may always do so - also compromises the ability to reach a global audience.

As a result, the ICC is under increasing pressure to rethink its commitment to the Championship.

The World Test Championship was originally scheduled to be held for the first time in 2013, but was postponed due to the reservations of broadcasters. The ICC had hoped it would replace the Champions Trophy but was unable to reach an agreement and the 50-over tournament was staged in the UK, with some success, instead. It was subsequently confirmed that the Champions Trophy would not be played again.

While the ICC remains committed to hosting one showpiece event for each format of the game - World Twenty20, World Cup and Test Championship - the fact is that the Champions Trophy was popular with broadcasters, spectators and sponsors. Its revival cannot be ruled out.

*ESPN STAR Sports was a 50:50 joint venture between Walt Disney (ESPN, Inc.), the parent company of ESPNcricinfo, and News Corporation Limited (STAR)

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on January 18, 2014, 11:43 GMT

    Maybe England, Australia, India and South Africa (if they behave) should play eacother all the time, and the game can be left to die in the rest of the world! Hang on I think somebody's already thought of that!!!

  • Ricardo on December 24, 2013, 23:05 GMT

    How can anyone say a test championship won't work?? It's the toughest format - & never had a proper context. What about bradman's invincibles?? Len Hutton's ENG with Trueman/Statham, The 70's Aussies side with the Chappell's, & Lillee/Thommo, Clive Lloyd's Windies of the 80's??? All their achievements undocumented. It was immoral that the ICC sat back without ever creating a "test championship" format relying on 50ov WC & now WT20. Imagine Pele's Brazil being undefeated after playing endless "friendly" fixtures?? Muhammed Ali fighting numerous exhibition bouts...with no heavyweight title fight?? Ok....enough ranting. A test championship & FTP aren't feasible, with fixs getting congested. The problem is fitting it all in. Some good idea's being suggested. I think 2 divisions of 6 teams incl. IRE & AFG, is the best idea - maybe scrap the FTP? Two 6 team tournaments over 6 months/1 yr? with promotion/relegation? Played once every 4yrs? with room for the ASHES over the other 3 yrs.

  • Jawwad on December 21, 2013, 14:19 GMT

    @Stuart Lowe- Right while the top 4 shine the rest will make hay. And what happens to FTP considering the top 4 are busy somewhere for 45 days? Oh wait! Now, they we are busy again for 45 days IPL. Wait, now there is another league. I am sorry but a true championship is played amongst all and one comes on top.

  • gaurav on December 21, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    the top six ranked teams can play the tournament.. a round-robin format with two pools of three teams each. one match from each pool to be held concurrently, telecast on two channels just as world cups are. points could be awarded for first innings runs, wickets and getting the first innings lead, with a large bonus for outright wins. the final between the top teams from the two pools could be a six day or even a timeless test match.

  • Joshua on December 20, 2013, 16:44 GMT

    Having Australia, England, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka playing would be ideal for the official tournament. The teams should play four-day test matches in the round robin format. Matches start on Thursday and ends on Sunday. Four days encourage aggressive batting and captaincy for results. Friday afternoons and the weekends would attract the majority of support. If one match (16 in total) is played per weekend, then the tournament would take 4 months. If 2 per weekend, 2 months and if 3 per weekend, 5 weeks that could be placed in the summer of the host country. After five rounds the top two teams should play and the rankings be adjusted accordingly.

    West Indies, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Ireland should play in a division 2 Championship that doesn't necessarily have to be broadcasted. The winner of this tournament should play the last placed team from Division 1 in a bilateral series to try and win to qualify for the next tournament.

  • Pete on December 20, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    Just play the ´holder´ versus the highest ranked other team, annually. Make it a single, six-day Test at home for the holder. If the holder can draw that, they still hold the title. Good little event.

  • Aakash on December 20, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    @Mohammad Ahmad - Spot on mate. Could not have said it better!

  • Cam on December 20, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    The Ashes IS already the test championship, why do we need a second one that doesn't make sense?

  • TARIQ on December 20, 2013, 10:04 GMT

    This is typical hypocrisy of financially big cricket nations basically saying if we are not in it, it wouldn't happened. We can assume that England and India knows thay are on downward slide so lets not have it all and put it down on sponsors and TV companies, what a load of rubbish this is, I think the best option is to extend the competition to top 6 nations and have a 110 overs per innings matches and play 5 matches with each other as round table and then the final for 2 top teams, this will involve more nations, more interest and will keep everybody happy.

  • Chris on December 20, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Not surprised. Cricket is a pathetic unpopular sport played by only 10 countries of more than 200. Half these full members are third world countries hence less profitable.

    Very poor crowd attendance in Cricket. Just look at the current series between NZ-West and even the top 2 clash SA-IND lol hardly any crowd so what makes you think in England these 2 teams can attract any crowd?

    Fact is nobody likes Cricket. The game is too long and boring. Too many same repeated matches like the Ashes. Yawn.

    Sorry if I hurt anyone's feeling but that's the truth. I will now post this to forums, youtube, facebook etc to spread the message.