The ICC has approved the creation of a league-style Test Championship and redrawn the lines of one-day cricket as part of an extensive restructuring of the international game that also includes a reduced 50-over World Cup and an enlarged World Twenty20 event. The proposals - laid out by the ICC's chief executive committee last month - were approved by the board at its meeting in Dubai on Wednesday.
The Future Tours Programme (FTP) will now comprise a Test league running over four years with the top four teams at the end of each period qualifying for a play-off event. The first play-off is scheduled for 2013, the same year England are due to host the Ashes, and Lord's is the favoured venue for the final.
A one-day cricket league - mirroring the existing team rankings - will also be part of the FTP, starting in April 2011 and running over four years to culminate in the crowning of the first ODI league champion in April 2014.
The league will run separately from the World Cup, the ICC's flagship event, which has been reduced to 10 teams for the 2015 tournament. The 2011 World Cup, to be held in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, will include 14 countries and run from February 19 to April 2. The lengthy tournament is itself a smaller version than the 2007 event, which was widely criticised for including 16 sides and taking too long.
A 10-team tournament effectively makes it much harder for any of the Associate countries to qualify (the 2011 event has four Associate teams), and the ICC has asked its governing council to examine the issue of qualification for ICC global events, as well as opportunities for Associate members to play ODIs, and make recommendations to the board.
The World Twenty20 event will be expanded to 16 teams from the 2012 tournament, due to be staged in Sri Lanka. The success of smaller nations like Netherlands and Afghanistan in Twenty20 cricket prompted the expansion of the tournament, which will continue to have the women's event played alongside it
"Restructuring international cricket is a significant strategic challenge and one that must be dealt with," Haroon Lorgat, ICC chief executive, said. "We have now agreed in principle to exciting and far reaching proposals to tackle this important issue."