Cricket in its current form has no rigidly-structured schedule and while several current and former cricketers have suggested ways to make improvements, this article tries to draw up a structured four-year plan for all forms of cricket.
Before going into the details of the schedule, here are a set of proposed changes that could prove beneficial. (1) Test nations need to be re-organised into two groups, one comprising eight teams and the other, four. While the first group would contain the top eight Test playing nations - Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa, as per the current rankings - the other group would have the four next-best teams. (2) The World Twenty20 should be played once every four years instead of its current rotation of every two years, alternating with the Champions Trophy.
How the four-year plan would work
The top-eight Test nations that make up Group A, over a four-year period (starting and ending with the Test Championship), will have to play each other home and away. So each team would play 14 series over a four-year period at the end of which the Test Championship will be staged.
Only points gained in these 14 series are to be counted towards the Test Championship - any other series played outside the officially-scheduled 14 should not be counted. The purpose of such a move is to ensure that while cricket boards are welcome to organise series with other countries for monetary purposes (any number of times), since they add no value towards the Test Championship, the number of meaningless and repetitive series (Sri Lanka v India, anyone?) would be reduced. This will also help avoid situations wherein a team has not toured another country for more than four years.
Each series will not comprise just Tests, though, but also ODIs and Twenty20s. While it is preferred that two-Test series are avoided, it is not possible to have at least three-Tests in every series given the constraints of scheduling so many series withing a limited time frame. The proposed solution for this would be in the way the points for each series are calculated, demonstrated in the table below.
The points system would help in achieving the following:
Another problem cricket currently faces is the number of irrelevant ODI series that are being played, especially with some bilateral series having up to seven games. The solution, again, is to have a more rigid system in place. For example:
Once again, the idea here is to disallow two-Test series or seven-ODI series unless accompanied by the corresponding number of games in other formats. If a cricket board wants to play five ODIs, then it would have to increase the Tests being played from two to three. To deal with the issue of extra, irrelevant series, the Champions Trophy could be introduced, played once every four years (alternating with the World T20). Points accumulated through the four-year plan series would count towards deciding eligibility for the Champions Trophy. Once again, only series in the four-year plan would count and not those outside it.
Group B in Test cricket, comprising of the four teams that constitute the best of the rest, would also play Tests against each other during the four-year period but with the added guarantee that each of the top eight teams would play at least one series against them in the four-year period. (The alternative is to ensure each team from the top eight plays at least one Test and an ODI every year against the bottom four).
The Test Championship
At the end of the four years, when the points are calculated to decide the rankings of the top eight and (independently) the next four, these rankings will determine which teams play the Test Championship. The proposed idea is to have the top-two ranked teams gain direct entry into the semi-finals, while the next eight sides play two rounds to decide the other semi-finalists.
The Champions Trophy could also be designed in a similar manner, where the points accumulated decide if the team qualifies directly for the semi-finals or has to play more matches.
Here is a sample four-year plan, with ample room for the proposed Champions Trophy replacing one of the two scheduled World T20s.
The months mentioned are merely suggestive and not definite. Also, the years used for the example are arbitrary and have been chosen to merely represent a 4 year plan which includes the 4 major ICC events.
Flaws in the four-year plan
A possible flaw is the lack of multi-nation ODI tournaments. Each team could be allowed one such tournament every two years, which is counted towards the ODI ranking.
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