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Sutherland stresses ICC big picture

James Sutherland has urged boards opposing the proposed two-tier Test structure to factor in the larger goal of making bilateral series more relevant ICC

Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland has stressed the need to view proposed changes to the structure of international cricket in their entirety, after the BCCI expressed its opposition to the concept of two-tier Test cricket.

ICC chief executive David Richardson has advocated what he calls a "proper competition structure" for Test cricket, which could see a top division of the seven highest-ranked Test nations and a lower division including the sides ranked eight to ten, as well as new Test teams from the Associate nations.

The concept was discussed at the ICC's annual conference in Edinburgh in June, along with other potential changes to the structure of international cricket. However, the boards of both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh expressed their opposition to two-tier Test cricket, a stance that has now been backed by BCCI president Anurag Thakur.

"In the two-tier system, they will lose out on a lot, including revenue and the opportunity to play against top teams," Thakur said of lower-ranked Test sides. "We don't want that to happen. We want to work in the best interests of world cricket and that is why our team plays against all the countries."

However, Sutherland said nothing under the new proposal would prevent top teams such as India playing against the lower-ranked sides in bilateral contests, and the overall raft of proposed changes would add greater context to international cricket.

"I saw the headlines about that and I saw some comment that that was about India wanting to play against the other countries," Sutherland told ESPNcricinfo. "Well, frankly there's nothing that I'm aware of that stops India from playing against whoever they want to.

"But creating some sort of structure around Test cricket is one small part of what's a number of different components to a major review of the structure and format of international bilateral cricket, something that we believe is really important to ensure the sustainable future of international cricket.

"Whether there are two divisions is one small component. There's a whole lot of other things about what the financial model looks like, how teams that may be in the second division are protected and supported to ensure they're given the best financial backing and other opportunities to bounce back from the second division.

"But we're only talking about Test cricket there. That's one small component of the whole package or raft of things that includes T20 league, one-day league, and competition that adds context and structure to international cricket, and hopefully makes it more sustainable as a fan proposition, which is ultimately the most important thing."

Sutherland said it was too early to speculate about the future of proposed ICC changes, despite the apparent opposition expressed by Thakur last week.

"We'll have discussions about that in time," Sutherland said. "It's hard to gather exactly what people are thinking from headlines or limited media reports. Until you actually get with people and understand what they're thinking it's very difficult to rationalise and probably inappropriate to make too much comment."