What are cricket blogs for other than to relay drunken conversations you’ve had in the pub? That’s the joy of editing your own site. You can take a half serious conversation (which originally stemmed from a discussion of the Joshua versus Klitschko fight), turn it into a proposition, and then ask hundreds of fellow cricket lovers to shoot it down.
So here’s my idea … well it’s not actually my idea (it was my mate’s idea and it’s not quite good enough for me to crave ownership of it) but it’s an idea worth discussing nevertheless:
If we’re looking for ways to breathe new life into test cricket, and a world test championship is proving too difficult to implement, why not make test cricket like boxing? In other words, you create an undisputed champion (currently India as they sit atop of the rankings), and then they have to defend their crown all over the world.
As soon as someone beats them, their conquerers immediately become the new champions, and then the new champion team has to defend its crown all over the world … and so on.
Now obviously this idea is a little crude, and more than a little nuts, but it does actually have some merits … albeit merits that seemed a lot more compelling after five pints.
For starters, there would be a more interesting narrative to any series involving the champions. For example, when India play in Sri Lanka the story would be “can the plucky Sri Lankans dethrone the Indian juggernaut? The fact that a Sri Lankan win would make the home side world champions might create more interest (both locally and around the world) and help to sell tickets.
Another benefit is that the test championship mace would suddenly become a more accessible and realistic goal for developing teams. We might see less powerful cricketing nations targeting series against the champions. They might even rest their best players for it.
The prospect of taking on the champions, and becoming part of a champion team oneself, might even persuade the ever increasing pool of T20 mercenaries to return home for a showdown against the best team in the world. Wouldn’t it be great if the West Indies’ globetrotters suddenly turned up for a home series against India? It would certainly create more interest.
What’s more, test cricket would surely become more unpredictable. Inconsistent and rebuilding teams would have a huge incentive to raise their games when a couple of good performances might see them seize the world title … just like one inspired performance (or lucky punch) can catapult underdogs heavyweights like Hasim Rahman to stardom.
Although this system might seem a little harsh on the vanquished champions, who might see years of hard work unravel within a couple of weeks on subcontinental bunsens, the ‘boxing system’ will at least keep them motivated on tours that might otherwise seem arduous and unappetising.
What’s more, knowing that one’s world title is on the line in every series might actually keep a team motivated, encourage innovation, and push them on to achieve ever greater feats. One bad series and it’s all over … until you have a chance to snatch the championship back of course.
The other benefit of this system is that once a champion is beaten, and a less complete team (or one with more obvious flaws) becomes champion, the rest of the world would smell blood and start lining up to have a pop – realising that they too have a realistic shot at the title. Suddenly a team’s schedule would take on new meaning as fans scurry through the fixture list looking for windows of opportunity.
Obviously the situation might sometimes create a test mace merry-go-round, with the championship changing hands on a regular basis, but is this necessarily a bad thing? Besides, it would surely only be a matter of time until an undisputed champion emerges – one worthy of the title – who defends its crown over a prolonged period of time.
Now I’m not going to pretend that this idea is perfect. Some of its holes are larger than the gap between Phil Tufnell’s bat and pad. You can talk about scheduling, and how frustrating it would be if the reigning champions unexpectedly lost just before they played England, in the comments below.
The other alternative, of course, would be to shorten test cricket from five days to say, three hours, and rename the teams after cities. England would become the London Lager Louts, Australia the Canberra Can Swillers, and India the Delhi Dare You To Down Its.
Drink five pints and suddenly it becomes an inspired idea.