The ICC Test Championship will not be held before 2017, Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, has said. The tournament was initially scheduled for 2013, but it cannot be conducted before 2017 due to the ICC's commitments to its broadcaster and sponsors.
"I am afraid that [the Test championship] is no longer going to happen in 2013," Lorgat said in Dubai, where he was attending the second ODI between Sri Lanka and Pakistan. "At the last board meeting we decided the first opportunity to play the Test championship is 2017. I am disappointed it is not going to take place sooner but it is a reality of the commitments we have already got through to 2015."
The ICC's broadcast partner is ESPN STAR Sports*, with whom they have a contract till 2015. The Champions Trophy, the ICC's second-most significant one-day tournament, is scheduled to be played in June 2013 in England, but the ICC had hoped to convince all interested parties to switch that tournament to play-offs between the top four Test teams as per the ICC Test rankings.
However, after the ICC's executive board meeting in October, it released a statement saying there would be significant commercial challenges in replacing the Champions Trophy without the support and consent of the ICC's broadcast partner since the financial implications on the Members would be significant. Changing the tournament from a one-day one to Test play-offs would have required a substantial cut in the broadcast rights fee, which would have repercussions on the Members.
Lorgat, on Monday, said the switch would not be possible. "We attempted to switch the Champions Trophy to become a Test championship but that is not going to be possible."
The MCC criticised the ICC's decision, calling it "disappointing". "MCC has been very consistent in its support for Test cricket and the need for governing bodies to give the five day game a bit of a boost," John Stephenson, MCC Head of Cricket, said. "Today's announcement is a setback for Test cricket, at a time when we need to work to find the optimum balance between all formats of the game."
The Test championship is a concept aimed at increasing the popularity of Test cricket, something the ICC has consistently pledged their commitment to. Lorgat had said ahead of the ICC's last board meeting that hosting a Test Championship in 2013 would be ideal since "player and public interest in Test match cricket is at an all-time high". Lorgat, on Monday, maintained his stance that a championship would have been a positive move for Test cricket. "We attempted to form the World Test Championship which I think would have been a very good context in ensuring the primacy of Test cricket but again we will have to wait for 2017 to see that as a reality."
*ESPN STAR Sports is a 50:50 joint venture between Walt Disney (ESPN, Inc.), the parent company of ESPNcricinfo, and News Corporation Limited (STAR)