John Buchanan believes the ICC should consider turning world cricket into a franchise-based system where players could choose which country to represent, in an effort to make the game more competitive. Buchanan spent eight years as Australia's coach, finishing after the World Cup in April, and he thinks Australia's dominance is hurting international cricket.
"This equality debate keeps bubbling to the surface and means that there is a serious issue there," Buchanan told the Age. "I think it mightn't be a bad thing if the ICC looked at some rule relaxations, which might allow a more even distribution of players around the world.
"Most young cricketers in Australia grow up wanting to play for Australia, but I'm sure there would be quite a few who, when they get to about 25 or 26 and realise they probably won't get a chance to wear the baggy green, would still be happy to play international cricket anywhere. The problem at the moment is that there is a long qualification period and, by the time that's up, the player and the other country probably lose interest."
Buchanan said the ICC's current rules were too strict, with players needing to spend at least 183 days a year for four consecutive years in their new country before qualifying to play a Test. However, he believes turning Test nations into franchises could lead to a greater flow of players between countries, and a more competitive international scene.
"Countries should look to recruit young players from Australia, and places like India, to increase their depths of talent," Buchanan said in the Herald Sun. "Those players would enhance the domestic competition and, hopefully, go on to play Test cricket for the country they move to. We don't want cricket to become like a horse race when the favourite wins all the time. No-one will want to watch."
Barry Richards, the former South Africa batsman, agreed that there was a serious problem with Australia's dominance - Ricky Ponting's team won their 13th consecutive Test when they beat Sri Lanka at the Gabba on Monday and Australia have not lost a World Cup match since 1999. "Australia plays international cricket, the rest just play cricket," Richards said.
"I have lost interest in it because I know the result before they start playing. Until you get strength against strength, nothing is going to happen. In England, they have 18 counties and they call it first-class cricket and it's absolutely useless."
Buchanan's replacement as Australia's coach, Tim Nielsen, told the Age the franchise plan was not the answer and other nations needed to keep striving to catch Australia. "We've got to keep trying to raise the bar," he said, "because, as always, we are the ones being chased and people are looking to what we are doing and trying to replicate it."