South Africa extend support to two-tier Test system

Morne Morkel removed Alastair Cook Getty Images

Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat has declared his board's support for the introduction of two divisions in Test cricket, as debate intensifies about the future of the game.

"Test cricket is already fading and will die if nothing is done," Lorgat said. "South Africa would support a two-tier Test system in order to create meaningful context for Test match cricket. Currently there is little or no meaning when countries play against each other in bilateral Test matches, save for the Ashes."

The model of two division Test cricket devised by the ICC would feature seven teams in division one and five in division two, with each team playing a series either home or away against the others in their divisions over a two-year cycle. The standings would then be used to determine the overall winner of the Test league, and promotion and relegation between the two divisions. The winners of the Intercontinental Cup, the first-class competition for Associate nations, would also be able to win promotion to division two.

"A two-tier system with promotion and relegation will allow for a much better narrative plus two more teams will have the opportunity to play Test match cricket," Lorgat said. "The Test league can also link down to the Intercontinental Cup where again promotion and relegation will create context and opportunity for other countries."

The news that South Africa endorse the two division plan follows officials from Australia, England and New Zealand supporting the proposals, which are favoured by ICC chief executive David Richardson.

Although Anurag Thakur, the president of the BCCI, recently voiced his opposition to two divisions, some other Full Members remain hopeful that the plans could yet pass. Any change would need the vote of seven of the ten Full Members on the ICC board, and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have also expressed their opposition to two divisions. One insider said that they believed that Pakistan lean towards supporting two divisions, but Zimbabwe are believed to be reluctant.

West Indies have still not decided on their stance. "At this point in time the West Indies Cricket Board does not have enough information to make an informed decision," Dave Cameron, the president of the WICB, said. "However in world football there are no divisions with over 200 nations participation, and so off the bat we cannot see the need for divisions if we have 12 teams participating in Test cricket."

While Thakur said that the BCCI was worried that "the smaller countries will lose out" under the proposals, Lorgat does not think this would be the case. As well as Associate nations benefiting from the introduction of promotion and relegation, he also said that lower-ranked Full Members, like Bangladesh, could stand to gain from the reforms. "In the proposed system they will have certainty of Test fixtures compared to now when they are at the mercy of countries playing against them." Sides in division two would also be free to organise extra matches against division one teams.

The ICC is due to meet in Dubai next month for a special meeting to discuss comprehensive reforms to the structure of cricket, including the introduction of two divisions in Tests, a 13-team ODI league and ratifying bringing the World T20 back to a once-in-two-years event.