Solutions for reforming Test cricket
The results of our survey on Shaking up Test cricket showed that most Cricinfo readers felt that change was required in the game, but that Test cricket should expand rather than be a closed club. We'd asked for further suggestions on how to revamp the game, and some selections from the first batch of responses are below. We found them both interesting and thought-provoking, and we hope you'll agree. Feel free to send us more views on this subject.
The best option is to reform ICC's 10-year playing cycle. Currently, a country has to play every other country twice at home and abroad during that period. That could be restricted to, say, just the top 8 teams. For teams below that (read Bangladesh and Zimbabwe), the mandatory playing requirements should be limited to one series at home and one abroad during that 10-year period (and more if the countries' boards so desire). Another sensible option is to play the lower-ranked sides just in their home country. For one, that slightly levels the playing field, since sides play better at home, and are less susceptible to being humiliated than abroad. Also, it relieves the boards of the higher-ranked countries from having to host 'boring' series against lowly ranked teams, that will almost definitely lead to incurring financial losses for the host board, which isn't fair on them.
These options will ensure that Test cricket stays interesting and is well cared for, as well as keep the expansion goals open. If the performance of the lower teams improves, they will almost surely get to play more and more Test cricket. Sri Lanka never got the benefit of mandatory series against higher teams, but they did improve over time, and by that time, other teams wanted to play Sri Lanka by their own wish. Let Bangladesh and Zimbabwe also take the natural course, rather than have series after series of humiliating losses forced upon them.
Herman De Wael - More players, not more teams
Rather than bring in more Test teams at the moment, we should be bringing in more Test players. One way to do this is for five of the current teams (England, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and New Zealand) to change to continental teams. That way, John Davison could be playing for "Americas", Gavin Hamilton and Ed Joyce for "Europe", the Kenyans could join Zimbabwe. It seems to me a strange fact that a Welshman or an Anguillan can play Test cricket but a Scotsman or a Bermudan can't.
Ian Gent - Quality over quantity
I am surprised that one option for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe was not mentioned in your report. That is to keep their Test status but to withdraw them from the official Test championship and the requirement to play everyone at home and abroad.
There is no problem as such with weak Test teams: New Zealand were that for decades. The problem is that Bangladesh and Zimbabwe play too many Tests. Let them play a much reduced number, making them much more of an event, and in time quality will improve.
Conrad P Hudson - Rotation at the fringes
The Test playing circle should consist of the eight permanent members along with two to four rotating spots decided by victories in ICC sponsored tournaments. This will ensure that teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have to compete to retain their Test spots. It will also give other interested countries like Canada, Holland, Scotland and Kenya a better shot at international exposure. These low-ranked teams should be invited to more international ODI tours and kept out of major tournaments like the World Cup and the mini-World Cup. This way they get the exposure of playing at the highest level and at the same time the tournaments with global coverage and widespread following are not spoiled by one-sided contests. Those teams which improve to the point of achieving significant success at the ODI level can be given Test status, and only the top 8 Test playing countries should be involved in World Cups.
Stephen Anderson - Determine frequency according to ranking
Cricket needs the global expansion of the game. However, admission to Test status should be taken seriously, and no team should be rushed into it, as was Bangladesh. There should be a carefully planned process of building up local infrastructure and competition as well as serious competition in the form of A tours and first-class tours. Then sides would emerge onto the test stage ready to compete.
However, an expansion of Test cricket will make the ICC 10-year programme impractical. Instead, we could have a system whereby the regularity of tours was related to the closeness of the ranking - Australia would play England every two years but only tour Bangladesh maybe once in 10 years. Therefore most contests would be competitive, but the minnows would still have the chance to test themselves against the big fish.
I think what's needed is an overhaul of ICC's 10-year Test program. The reason new teams like Bangladesh lose so much is because they play way too much cricket without really having time to work on their game. In a new programme low-ranked teams should be given a longer cycle and every series should consist of at least three tests. I reject a two-tier system but one option could be four-day Tests for low-ranked teams. If a Super Test can be of six days, so can these mismatched Tests be for four days. This will give extra incentive to perform because they will have a more realistic chance of earning a draw if not a win.
Azizul Haque - A handicap system
I propose a handicap system. All the big teams like Australia, England, South Africa, India, Pakistan and New Zealand should give a handicap to minnows. For example, in a Test between Bangladesh and Australia, Bangladesh will automatically have, say, 150 runs in their first innings on the board.
These handicaps must be decided by an experienced panel of cricketers beforehand, and revised every two or three years taking into consideration the standard achieved by the lesser teams.This system will make the competition even and interesting to watch. And after some time probably these handicaps will not be required.
Avin Dhoble - A minor league
Test Cricket can actually follow the example of Champion's Trophy played in field hockey. We can have a secondary league (minor league) of nations who compete with each other in a format similar to a world championship of Test cricket in a 2-year period. The top two teams will get a chance to play Test matches against the regular Test-playing countries. Their performance will be judged over a two-year time frame. If not found suitable they will be replaced by other two teams from the minor league. This sort of competition will be healthy for the game and good for its popularity and expansion around the globe.
Rajiv Mallick - Let players migrate
I would vote to keep both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in; there are 'substandard' teams in all professional sports. Just look at the examples of the Los Angeles Clippers in NBA Basketball, and the Colorado Rockies in Major League Baseball in the US; these teams have never matched up to the standards of the rest, yet have been around for years due to continuing fan interest. If poor players can be persisted with in otherwise good teams, then why not poor teams? It will allow players who lose favor in their own country the opportunity to migrate to Bangladesh or Zimbabwe and play for these countries. (Ganguly, are you listening?)
James McCowen - Don't kick out teams
I would advocate keeping Test cricket to the top ten cricket nations. These, at this time, would be the ten who currently play Test cricket. However, I believe some sort of promotion-relegation system could be put in place. The second-tier teams already have a competition to decide who the best in their number is - The Intercontinental Cup. Why not have the winner of the Intercontinental Cup play the 10th ranked side in Test cricket on an annual basis in a series to decide who fills the final place in Test cricket?
I see no benefit for cricket in kicking out Bangladesh and Zimbabwe due to poor performance. If we were to set that precedent, there would have been many times over recent years when the West Indies, England and Pakistan could also have come under this pressure. I would rather see them given incentive to improve their performance and there is no greater incentive than relegation. Kenya would surely prove a worthy adversary for either Zimbabwe or Bangladesh sooner rather than later, and who knows what may develop in Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Namibia, Nepal and Canada?
Got something more to add to this subject? Write in to us in not more than 400 words, and we'll put up the best submissions.