ICC news February 25, 2015

ECB moots four-day Tests, 40-over World Cup

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Dobell: New ECB regime quite radical

Test cricket could be reduced to four days, and the next World Cup curtailed to 40 overs a side, if wide-ranging discussions between the chairmen of the English counties and the ECB become firm proposals, and are ultimately adopted by the ICC.

Any reduction in five-day cricket would mean the abandonment of a tradition that has been at the heart of the international game for more than 30 years. Tests have routinely been played over five days since 1979, an exception being when India met West Indies over six days in Kanpur. You have to go as far back as 1973 to find a Test scheduled for only four days: New Zealand v Pakistan in Auckland.

The ideas are included in a discussion document - Strategy Conversation Summary - seen by ESPNcricinfo which details radical suggestions for change in the domestic and international game. They form part of a wide-ranging review into the future of English cricket, both domestically and internationally, in which no tenet of the game is immune from potential change.

These suggestions remain only that, and are as yet restricted only to England. Any such change, if proposed, would have to undergo a long and painful discussion process within the ICC if they were to be adopted. But the very fact that such radical questions are being posed perhaps indicates the potential changes that could take place within the international game.

Another eye-catching aim - and one being driven forward most strongly - includes England establishing the English Premier League, a streamlined T20 competition involving eight or 10 teams, as "a dominant T20 tournament."

The implication - although it is not stated directly - is that England's international schedule could be trimmed to allow England players to take part in the EPL which would be seen as a serious rival - or addition - to the IPL and the fast-growing Big Bash League in Australia. There are also widespread changes suggested for the structure of domestic cricket in England and Wales.

But it is the sections on Test and ODI cricket that will provoke the most worldwide interest, as county chairmen debate options ahead of an ECB strategy document due to be published in October. News that a 50-over World Cup is being openly questioned in England might be seen as untimely, taking place as it does while the current tournament is being held over 50 overs in Australia and New Zealand.

While the next World Cup is to be staged in England in 2019, there is no way that the ECB - soon to be rebranded Cricket England and Wales as the ECB brand is seen as toxic - could unilaterally decide a change in its format.

The ECB has plans of establishing the English Premier League, "a dominant T20 tournament" which would be seen as a serious rival - or addition - to the IPL and Big Bash League © PA Photos

Equally, they do not have the power to change the length of Test matches, although if England, seen as the great defender of the primacy of Test cricket, is questioning the five-day format, then others may soon follow.

Intriguingly, the document includes a section suggesting the new president of the ECB - the former chairman, Giles Clarke - can use his influence at the ICC to bring change. Clarke remains the ECB's representative at the ICC and is believed to retain ambitions of one day chairing the organisation. India, England and Australia also now have widespread powers to run the international game much as they see fit.

"Influence ICC - ECB President changing the World Cup format to a 40-over competition," the document proposes.

A change in the length of ODIs has been mooted previously. Ahead of the 2011 World Cup, the idea seemed to be growing in popularity, only for the success of that tournament to breathe new life into the 50-over format.

It would appear the motivation for the suggested changes comes to a large extent from the desire of the new power brokers at the ECB - the chairman Colin Graves and chief exective Tom Harrison - to bring new relevance to their domestic professional set-up, which at 18 counties is the most ambitious in the world.

Four-day Tests - reduced from seven per summer to as few as five - would help create space in the schedule for a major T20 tournament. And a World Cup over 40 overs would allow the counties to revert to 40 overs a side while not deviating from the formats played at international level, a format they believe is more commercially attractive.

While some will view the discussion document - and at the moment that is all it is - as admirably bold and radical, others are sure to view the county chairmen and their discussions on the international game as naive, and question whether the ECB, in discussing them in this manner, have exceeded their authority.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • joff on March 3, 2015, 5:45 GMT

    Often changing methods and rules of the game is not good for cricket but advancement in technology is fine which should be correct and consistent.

  • Dummy4 on March 2, 2015, 23:31 GMT

    You can see why it makes sense - England currently struggling to get through 40 overs in WC against other test teams, and last year's ahes had them pusing up hill to go 5 days, so just make it easier to force a draw. Can I suggest a relgation system instead, which would probably have England dipping out for a more competitive team such as Ireland. LOL.

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2015, 11:21 GMT

    Have 70 overs of 8 balls (old Australian over!) a day. Limit each team to 140 overs both innings combined. Allow new ball being taken after every 50 overs. Play the Test from Thu thru Mon. Result is definite (weather and light permitting). 8 balls an over reduces the time taken for change overs from 87 times a day to 67 times a day. Then 4 day Tests may work even in the subcontinent and the Caribbeans.

  • Jay on February 26, 2015, 22:52 GMT

    Let the poms have their county championship to a one day affair and reduce their domestic cricket to any absurd level (10 over match or whatever). If the poms do not have the ability to last long let them not play. But hands off tinkering test matches and world cup.

  • Falak on February 26, 2015, 17:14 GMT

    Surely 12 overs in ODI is enough for England's opposition.

  • Steve on February 26, 2015, 16:05 GMT

    Yes to both proposals. Having said that, I would like tests to be result oriented, no matter the number of days. Meaningless, painful draws would be rejected by paying public in the coming years.

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2015, 11:15 GMT

    These are disastrous proposals. With friends like this who needs enemies? Test sides already struggle to complete 90 overs a day, even with extra time added. Having even longer days to squeeze matches into 4 days will slow games down even more. Also, what happens when extra time is added for rain delays. We'll end up with matches stretching from 10AM to 10PM, with floodlights in operation. Is there really any appetite for that? The ECB also has this strange fetish for 40 over cricket that no one else outside England is interested in. Yes, it was a great format for Sundays in the 1970s & 80s but it's been obsolete for many years now, especially since the advent of T20 cricket. 50 over cricket didn't come from 40 over cricket, it came from the other direction, previously being of 60 over duration as in the first World Cup in 1975 and later 55 overs before coming down to 50. Having originally hoped that Colin Graves would be a great improvement on Giles Clarke, now I'm not so sure!

  • Adam on February 26, 2015, 10:50 GMT

    If people ever wonder where all the money the ECB get from sky goes, we now have the answer. Highly expensive consultation reviews every year that completely ignore the findings of the previous year's review that asked exactly the same questions and came to diametrically opposite conclusions. Talk about a gravy train.

  • Neal on February 26, 2015, 10:47 GMT

    We have been here before. Two years ago there was a big consultation, and I think the consensus was 5 day tests, 4 day County championship, a one day competition at weekends, and T20 based on counties. It was clear that some county chairs were more interested in their own agenda, and Yorkshire were the main protagonists. Now we see that he has got himself elected as ECB Chair and is once again peddling his own, sad vision. Profit maximisation is not the way to encourage participation on the field or off it.

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2015, 9:52 GMT

    i don't think these changes will work at all. the current rules n regulations n formats are fine except the four fielders outside the circle rule which should be changed back to five fielders like before to make the bowler's life easier

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