With so many leading cricketers clamouring for a two-tier format for Test cricket, the International Cricket Council may finally put such a system in place. According to a report in SuperSport, a South African sports website, Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager, is currently presiding over discussions on a proposal to restrict Test cricket to eight teams, while the next two rungs would consist of 12 teams, split into two divisions of six each.

Teams in the elite group would be required to play each other in home and away series - comprising of two or three Tests each - which would ensure that a full round of Test series takes not more than three years instead of the current five, with every team playing 14 Tests a year.

The report also says that the second-division matches would be four-day games, played on a home-and-away basis. The winner of the second division would then take on the team which finished last in the elite group in a one-off Test. Victory in that match would promote the second-division winner into the elite group. So, as per current standings in the ICC Test Championship table, West Indies will be battling Zimbabwe or Bangladesh to avoid relegation.

For teams not good enough to make it to the top 14 but still harbouring hopes of climbing the rungs, there is also a proposal to include a third tier as well. As with the second division, the team topping the third tier will also get an opportunity to move up the ladder with a play-off against the wooden spooners of the second division.

An ICC spokesman said: "Malcolm Speed [the ICC's chief executive] announced a review of the structure of international cricket in June 2003. This review is on-going and will not be completed for several months. Until it has been completed it is impossible to speculate what the outcomes or recommendations will be."

The need to separate the top teams from the rest has been felt especially strongly of late, with Zimbabwe weakened considerably by the absence of 15 of their best players and Bangladesh struggling to make an impression.