Greg Barclay, the new ICC chairman, has conceded that the ambitious World Test Championship (WTC) hasn't quite achieved what it intended to, and the disruption caused by Covid-19 has only highlighted its "shortcomings". Barclay suggested going "back to the drawing board" after getting the latest - maiden - edition of the competition out of the way.
"In short, I don't think so. Covid has probably highlighted its shortcomings of the championship," Barclay said during a virtual media conference for wire services on Monday, when asked if the WTC has served its purpose.
The WTC schedule was affected in a big way by the pandemic, forcing the ICC to come up with a percentage allocation of points since it wasn't going to be possible to finish all the scheduled series before the 2021 final at the Lord's.
"... the issues that we have already got, I wonder whether some of it was because of an attempt to develop a Test Championship, clearly designed to drive interest back into Test cricket, provide a bit of context and relevance around the Test matches," Barclay said.
"From an idealist's point of view, probably it had a lot of merit but practically, I do disagree, I am not sure whether it has achieved what it intended to do.
"My personal view is let's get through with the little bit that we can in this Covid-19, with reallocation of points and all that [...] but once we have done that, let's go back to the drawing board as I am not quite sure whether it entirely fits the purpose and has achieved what it intended to after being conceptualised four to five years back.
"I think we need to look at it in context of calendar and not put cricketers in a situation where it's a lot worse and not going to help us."
Barclay said that he had the support of some full-member nations on the matter too. "Yeah, I think there would be some countries (who agree with the rethink). It is difficult for some of the full members as they simply can't afford to play Test cricket," he said. "Test cricket has got its legacy and I am a purist but I do accept that as much as I want to keep it as it is, less and less countries are able to afford that arrangement and are able to play it.
Clearly, there is a demand (for T20 leagues) from the playing point of view and commercial partnering perspective. So let's accept that domestic leagues are here to stay and they have been tremendously contributing to the growth of the really exciting product like the IPL, BBL and CPLGreg Barclay
"Very few countries can make it work from a financial point of view."
While Barclay said he believed that T20 leagues would stay, and continue to assist the financial health of the member boards, he wanted bilateral series with context as players' safety as well as physical and mental health would be paramount in coming days.
"My view is that, I think all forms of cricket need to be taken into account," he said. "You are right, the calendar is increasingly becoming congested and something has to give somewhere.
"... but I do respect that each country has the right to develop its own domestic league given it meets the ICC requirements and is properly sanctioned.
"Clearly there is a demand from the playing point of view and commercial partnering perspective. So let's accept that domestic leagues are here to stay and they have been tremendously contributing to the growth of the really exciting product like the IPL, BBL and CPL."
Context, he reiterated, would be key in keeping bilateral cricket in good health.
"It's an incredibly difficult juggling act to get in there and also, we need to have enough conversations regarding players' health safety. I don't think we have had enough conversations," he said. "Some of the focus needs to be on the integrity aspect of the game and we need to have competitions which are relevant and have context."
When asked about having more global events, which the world body had informally proposed before being rejected by members, Barclay said, "Bilateral cricket is fundamentally important to member countries. ICC runs very, very good events; all countries must have an opportunity to take part in these events.
"I am a fan of maintaining ICC events which are world-class, but at the same time, giving an opportunity to members to have bilateral cricket."
On (the lack of) cricket between India and Pakistan, Barclay chose not to get involved, saying it was "not his mandate" and that he understood there were "geo-political" considerations in play, but he did acknowledge the importance of the BCCI to the global game, despite the many ICC vs BCCI incidents over the years: "India is a massively important part of world cricket. Like all families, we have general squabbles but India recognises that ICC needs Indian cricket. We have been able to navigate through differences, if any."