The ICC is considering shaking up their structures by splitting Test cricket into two divisions with promotion and relegation between them.
In an exclusive by the Guardian, the ICC are also pondering adding two new nations to the Test roster. In an attempt to improve the game across all levels, the international governing body is exploring a number of options that would give the three different formats greater context and appeal from 2019.
According to the Guardian, the preferred idea within the governing body at present, in terms of Test cricket, is a plan to place seven nations into division one and five in division two, with promotion and relegation decided every two years.
Based on the current rankings, eighth-placed West Indies would slip into division two, which would still have full Test status, along with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. This second tier would then see the two best teams from the 2015-17 Intercontinental Cup, the first-class competition for associate nations, added to it, leaving Ireland, currently top of the table, poised to gain Test status.
In division one it is envisaged that all seven nations would play a series against each other, either home or away, over a two-year cycle. The leading team would win the Test championship, while the bottom side would face relegation.
There would be no exemptions to this, something originally proposed by Australia, England and India during the restructuring of the ICC in 2014. Relegation and promotion between division two and the Intercontinental Cup would also be in place, although whether this would be automatic or determined by play-offs is still being discussed.
Matches within this divisional structure would occupy no more than five months a year, leaving time for countries to schedule additional tours. A marquee series such as the Ashes, for example, could continue on its current cycle even if Australia or England were in different divisions.
This proposal is likely to be put to the ICC board at the annual conference in Edinburgh in June, and could come into effect after the 2019 World Cup.
Plans for one-day international and Twenty20 cricket are less advanced in terms of detail, although the ICC is keen to restructure both formats. One option being discussed for ODI cricket is to have two leagues of six, forming the basis of qualification for the World Cup; three leagues of four is also being considered.
In T20 cricket, the ICC hopes to introduce a system of regional qualifiers, from which all 105 members would have the opportunity to qualify for the World T20. The automatic qualification of each full member nation to world events would also end.
The proposals are designed to combat the loss of relevance of bilateral cricket, especially Tests, and concerns that matches lack clear consequences for victory and defeat, as well as the fixture uncertainty many countries face. The ICC has attempted to introduce a structure to the Test game since 2004, but there is now a feeling of renewed urgency.