ICC executive meeting, Delhi February 10, 2005

ICC consider revised Test programme

Cricinfo staff

Bangladesh v Zimbabwe was a competitive series, but that merely highlighted the gulf between them and the rest © Getty Images

Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Test cricket's two weakest nations, could be limited to home appearances only across a six-year cycle, as the ICC considers adopting a two-tier system to combat the twin problems of fixture overload and uncompetitive matches.

Last month, Bangladesh finally won a Test match at the 35th time of asking, after 31 (mostly comprehensive) defeats in their first four years as a senior nation. That victory came at Zimbabwe's expense, however, which merely highlighted the extent to which these two nations have slipped away from the pack.

Under the current provisions of the ICC ten-year plan, all nations are obliged to play each other in home-and-away series of at least two Tests and three one-day internationals at five-year intervals. The new plan which, according to a report in Thursday's Daily Telegraph, is likely to be agreed when the ICC's executive board meets in Delhi next month, would require the eight leading nations to play each other over four-year cycles, with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe matches being spread over six years.

Speaking to Cricinfo, an ICC spokesman confirmed that this option was one of several being tabled, although it was stressed that there has been no clarification as yet, and a final decision could be deferred until the next meeting at Lord's in June. Since the concerns were first raised in 2003, the ICC has been undergoing a comprehensive review of the current model, and there is scope for an eight-plus-four model, in which the two weaker nations would complement their fixture list with first-class matches against the strongest associate-member nations, which at this stage would be Kenya and, perhaps, Holland.

"The ICC programme is one that has evolved organically over many years, but we are now looking to review it scientifically," added the spokesman, "There are a whole range of factors to take into account." In addition to an analysis of the playing conditions for each nation, the financial implications of unprofitable tours will also be taken into account, for the ability for each series to generate revenue is paramount. The ICC stressed, however, that no team's current status - be it Testor associate-member - would be under discussion in this round of talks.