A time for change
Here's our final batch of readers' suggestions on how to shake up Test cricket. The first batch is here. Also, here are the results of our survey on Shaking up Test cricket , and here's our article on the subject. We received loads of suggestions, and we're afraid we could only pick a few. Thank you for your time.
The solution is to have a basic standard for Test cricket. Current Test teams should play up to four provisional Test teams within a framework similar to the ICC Test championship. The matches should be considered first-class. If any of the provisional teams manages to maintain a certain level against the Test playing nations (say 20% of the matches won or drawn) for a period of two years, they get full Test status. If one of the full Test teams drops performance to a certain level (say 85% matches lost) then they lose full Test status and have to earn it back. This system will be fair and will encourage the smaller teams by giving them a fixed goal to achieve rather than having them fall prey to the whims and politics of the ICC.
Ashley Barnes - Export players
One of the solutions could be to encourage up-and-coming players from Test nations to go and play for smaller countries such as Scotland or Bangladesh. Currently there is a delay for anyone wanting to change countries, and it is quite a rarity to boot. Instead ambassadors from varying English counties, Australian sides or the like could go and play at an international level for the minor teams. This is of even more use when it is for a contractual period - such as a two-year stint. This way the cricketing world gets to see the full array of skills owned by the MacGills and Collingwoods who aren't picked regularly, but are genuine world beaters. And the minor sides can gain the benefit of having one or two external players to pass down the skill-sets/mindsets needed at an international level. Michael Bevan, for example, could easily play out a year should he so desire for Bangladesh to help pass on his skills in an ODI setting.
Ben Payne - Focus on infrastructure
To me it seems that, while it is important that the teams can compete, the focus should be less on how a particular team is performing right now, and more on whether the country in question has the infrastructure in place to improve and to nourish young players coming through for the future. A country could produce twelve excellent players, but unless the systems are in place to continue to produce them, their success at international level is going to be short-lived.
We must look to countries where cricket is growing in popularity, but also where the administration and infrastructure is sensible and stable. Corrupt or incompetent administration will undermine and kill support for the game, no matter how much raw talent there might be.
Once countries are selected and prove they have these structures in place, they must be given time to grow and improve. Sri Lanka, for instance, took at least ten years to become competitive as a cricketing nation. No one would deny them their place now.
Number one, the ICC should be able to remove arrogant cricket boards that don't pick the best players for its national teams (West Indies, Zimbabwe, India etc). Time for some regime change. Threaten removal of Test status for this most heinous crime against spectators.
Number two, promote an even competition by pumping money into domestic cricket in underperforming countries. The long reign of Australia has been as a result of its well-funded though poorly attended Sheffield Shield [now the Pura Cup].
Tom Crompton - "Best-of-the-Rest sides"
The debate around the status of teams such as Zimbabwe and Bangladesh centres around how to improve the standard in these countries while limiting the number of mismatched games. My suggestion is to replace these teams with ICC "Best-of-the-Rest" Test and ODI team, comprising of players from these and other nations, similar to the current Super Series team. This would give the best players in these and other nations regular top-level cricket and provide much sterner opposition for the established nations. "Home" series could rotate between the main countries and independent venues (such as Dubai) while away series could be longer (3-5 tests rather than 1-2) because only one such series is scheduled rather than two. As the standard of cricket increases the nations can regain full status in for Tests or ODI and the team will continue to act as a feeder for new emerging nations.
Amartojit Basu - `A' tours and age limits
Getting more countries involved, making Test cricket exclusive,including more players or making two divisions are all good ideas on paper, but they are highly unfeasible. ICC's ten-year plan actually happens to be a really good one as it makes sure that every side gets equal opportunity. It's highly amusing to suggest that Zimbabwe and Bangladesh would actually improve with less cricket against the top teams. What is feasible is to make 'A' cricket more popular by substantially increasing the cricket played between the 'A' teams of different countries. Organizing tri-series, tours and tournaments would increase the number of quality of players coming out of a country which would include Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The ICC could enforce an age limit, with, say, two or three players above 25 and the rest below. That would ensure that quality young players would come to the forefront putting pressure on the Bangladeshi and Zimbabwean national players, thus ensuring that every match that they play, they're playing for their place in the team.
Ian MacIntyre - It's just a matter of time
We have just seen one of the best series in living memory, there are less draws than before, attacking batting and great fielding, and we want to change it [Test cricket]? I'd be very wary.
The issue is not the weakness of the bottom two Test sides; new Test teams have always struggled. What if we had kicked Sri Lanka out in the late 1980s? No Murali, Vaas or `96 World Cup. That would have been a great loss. If Bangladesh are still rubbish 15 years later then think about it. Don't give them less time than Flintoff has had since he started Test cricket.
Rahul Oak - Give them the A's
There have been many suggestions about a two-tier system. However, if weak teams play against each other, they won't really be tested among the best - that is the argument against that kind of arrangement. However, having them play alongside the big boys makes for a really lopsided contest. So how about a second-tier group in which the rest of the countries send their `A' teams? I find the idea of importing players in cricket a bit too alien to the game, but then this way someone like a Stuart McGill or Vinod Kambli