A lot has been said and written about the power tussle within the ICC on a host of issues, including finances, the FTP and the reluctance to host the ICC Test championships. On the one hand, there is a challenge of diminishing interest in Test cricket, and on the other hand, there is a need to expand the game and at the same time ensure that cricket remains financially viable. In this article, I will dwell upon solutions to address these problems.
In a four-year cycle, one year should be dedicated entirely to an ICC Test World Championship, while the other three years should continue like present, of course, with a few modifications.
Coming to the radical idea of having a year dedicated to an ICC Test Championship, the format will be as follows: 10 teams will qualify for this championship. The lower-ranked team of either Bangladesh or Zimbabwe will have a two-match (home-and-away) play-off against the winner of the ICC Intercontinental Cup (presently Ireland) to determine who will make it to the championship. This will add context and incentive to the Intercontinental Cup and provide all Associate nations at least a slim chance of playing Test cricket at the highest level. Also, it will provide an incentive to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh to improve rather than remain stagnant.
The 10 teams will be divided into two groups of five teams each, which will play each other on a home-and-away basis from January to November. Hence, each team will play eight Test matches (four home and four away) in the league stages. The top two teams from each group will contest the semi-finals, and then the winners will play the grand final (on Boxing Day).
The scheduling is actually quite simple:
This format will ensure that each and every match will be hugely significant, since only two teams out of five can make it to the semi-finals. Hence, we would most likely have huge crowds and record viewership. Also, since the semis and finals will be played at a venue of one of the two participating teams, interest will be massive. Just imagine an Australia v South Africa/ England final at the MCG on Boxing Day!
In order to safeguard the financial interests of Boards and players alike during this Test Championship year, the following measures can be adopted:
I understand that there is a risk of financial losses in dedicating an entire year to the Test championships, but if this idea is to succeed, there will be a renewed surge of interest in Test cricket, which will ultimately lead to much healthier finances for all countries and for the game of cricket. The potential rewards are far greater than any short-term losses that may be incurred. I understand the broadcasters were not enthused by the earlier format proposed for the Test Championship, but in all fairness, the format was hardly exciting. I sincerely believe the solution I have enumerated above will be embraced by broadcasters.
Over the remaining three years of the cycle, there will be one 50-over World Cup and two World T20s. The FTP can be mutually agreed between the teams, but the ICC should ensure that each team gets adequate opportunities to play.
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