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Test cricket

January 26, 2014

A new format for the World Test Championship

Anil Joseph

Graeme Smith carries the Test mace around Lord's, England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day, August 21, 2012
Divide the top ten teams in two groups of five. Play home-and-away Tests. Top two from each group move to the semi-finals © PA Photos

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:

  • India, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan (either in UAE or in Pakistan) and New Zealand can host their share of four home Test matches each in January-March and November
  • West Indies in March and June
  • England in June to August
  • Sri Lanka in July and August
  • Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in October- November
  • The semi-finals can be hosted by either of the semi-finalists in the first half of December, except England (due to cold), depending on which teams make it to the stage
  • The final can be hosted on Boxing Day (26th December) by one of the two finalists.

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:

  • The months of April and May can be earmarked for the IPL, so that players don't lose out on their biggest income stream
  • There will be no ODIs and T20 Internationals during the entire year, so that all T20 leagues around the world can take place in parallel without too many players being unavailable
  • Teams that don't make it to the semifinals or finals can schedule Test matches or ODIs/T20 Internationals in December to ensure that the revenue keeps flowing in

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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Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by dummy4fb on (January 29, 2014, 19:52 GMT)

yes this will be exiciting to watch a cricket test match championship. wow i am agree for this kind of thinking about criket game

Posted by mahfij on (January 29, 2014, 16:44 GMT)

imagine.....england,spain,italy,germany,france asks fifa for giving them more profit.........impossible.....this idea is a complete shit!!.....just for few money hungry people at the wrong posts.....the game of cricket will be damaged....shame on people who even thinks about this new idea.

Posted by dummy4fb on (January 29, 2014, 16:24 GMT)

india , aus , eng go to hell .....

Posted by aniltjoseph on (January 29, 2014, 6:21 GMT)

@Reaction88... I fully agree with you that perhaps boards should be allowed to schedule ODI's and T20s also during that year. Regarding similar timeframes, if you read the article carefully, the schedule starts on 1st January....and the only the new year test would be a matter of dispute between SA and Australia....the answer is simple...we can have 2 test matches on Jan 3- one in Cape Town and the other in Sydney.

Regarding Boxing Day, as mentioned in the Article, if SA/ NZ/ Aus dont make it to the final, they are free to invite another team.

The basic point is that though there will be some concerns (as you have raised which are definitely valid), I dont think these are insurmountable. The potential positives are far greater in my opinion.....a concept of a proper test tournament may just ignite interest, and hence, revenue for the broadcasters.

Posted by Reaction88 on (January 29, 2014, 5:11 GMT)

@aniltjoseph 1. The number of Tests played per nation is not being disputed. No ODI's or T20I's leave a massive hole in the calendar. Domestic T20 worldwide is not yet on the level of IPL and doesn't have the global attention as Internationals have. ODI's are prolific in number because it generates the most income for national boards and its exclusion would ruin countries outside the Big Three. 2. SA and Aus share similar time frames for their home seasons, who decides which country plays at home during the most lucrative times (eg Boxing Day). 3. The general premise of your plan is sound however there are many factors unaccounted for that we as fans are not privy to that make the game work.

Posted by aniltjoseph on (January 29, 2014, 3:54 GMT)

@Reaction88, each team gets to play 8 tests, 4 home and 4 away. Hence, the 4 home games can be scheduled based on suitable climate (England in June-July, SA/ Aus/ NZ in Jan to March, etc.).

U say many months will be without cricket, but think about it....each team at least gets 8 games during the year(finalists get 10). During the year 2013, SL played played 3 test matches, Zim 4, Bangladesh 6, Pak 7, NZ 12, India 8, SA 9, WI 5, Aus 14 and Eng 14. There is hardly any difference in total number of tests, in my opinion.

Posted by Reaction88 on (January 28, 2014, 17:03 GMT)

The major flaw in this proposal is that cricket season varies from country to country across the hemispheres and time zones. Cricket can't be played in June/July (Winter) in SA and England can't play during the EPL. A compromise can be arranged but fixtures will be clumped into small windows and leave many months without cricket. If the fixtures are drawn across 2 years (eg 2014/2015 season; from Septmber to April) the compromise will be more tenable to all nations.

Posted by dummy4fb on (January 28, 2014, 15:41 GMT)

Worth considering. If tests are to continue to be regarded as the supreme format then a tournament that involves all test teams in one year makes sense.

Posted by dummy4fb on (January 28, 2014, 1:31 GMT)

India will not agree with this! I like this two groups system but why should the final be played in the deccember 26th? Playing the final on boxing day doesn't make sense. no one would like to play the whole year and then play the final. may be this way you can get top four teams and after that play semifinals and finals together.

Posted by RSIndAus on (January 27, 2014, 13:33 GMT)

Has everyone forgot this article from 2004?...

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