ICC CEO David Richardson has revealed plans to create two divisions of Test cricket.
In recent times there have been widespread talks on how Test cricket was losing it’s vogue due to the rise in popularity of the shorter formats of the game – more so T20. And at the launch of the 2017 Champions trophy Richardson revealed planned Test changes by the ICC. If the changes are realised it would see Associate Members given an opportunity to compete against the Full Member nations, in what many purists still see as the truest form of the game, and that could help Test cricket become more competitive.
Former Proteas wicketkeeper Richardson revealed that the proposed changes were motivated by the lack of competitive games that have seen Test matches become one sided in most bi-lateral series when the bigger nations took on the smaller nations. There has also been growing frustration among cricket fans on the standard of some of the smaller nations, who have put in mediocre displays in the more recent past; most notably Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh. That has led to a continued decrease in attendance and TV viewership involving those sides, and Richardson said the ICC has seen the need to change for the good of Test cricket.
‘There’s a general realisation now that, if we’re going to keep Test cricket going well into the future, we can’t just say it’s going to survive on its own,’ Richardson said. ‘Unless we can give some meaning to these series beyond the rankings and a trophy, then interest in Test cricket will continue to waver. The same applies if we allow uncompetitive Test cricket to take place too often.’
The proposed changes, if passed, would involve two divisions of Test cricket, with Division One consisting of seven teams and Division Two consisting of five. The nations would be ranked, with those in Division One facing the possibility of relegation to the lower division. Richardson said the changes would mean that elite Test sides would be decided in cycles, according to how they are performing, and that would go a long way in bringing the excitement back to the longer format of the game.
‘The feeling is that if you want to sustain interest in a competition, you probably can’t go longer than two years with it,’ Richardson said. ‘If you had a top division of seven teams, you’d have six tours – three home, three away – over a two-year period. It works well mathematically.
‘We could probably make it work in 2019 because hopefully whatever we implement will be better than the current arrangement. It’s the sooner the better as far as we’re concerned. We might need to have some negotiations with broadcasters who have deals in place, but they might be willing to change. This is a marvelous opportunity for the game.’
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