Word has just reached us that hell has indeed frozen over. The ICC has reached an agreement to introduce a world test championship and ODI league from 2019. These competitions will start after the World Cup.
The test championship will run over a two year period. Each team will play six series (three home and three away) lasting at least two tests. The structure will be flexible to allow longer series if necessary e.g. The Ashes. The top nine ranked teams will take part. And the two teams at the top of the ladder at the end of the two year period will contest a test championship final. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain for all five days.
The ODI league, which will finally kill off meaningless and tedious ODI series at the fag end of tours, will also run for two year cycles until 2023. After that it will be three year cycles. The competition will involve 13 teams. The thirteenth team will be the winner of the World Cricket League Championship.
My reaction to this news is “holy shit”! We’re used to shocks of a depressing nature but good shocks are rare for cricket fans these days – unless you’re a fan of cities, franchises, T20, and all that assorted bollocks.
We’d heard that something like this was in the pipeline but the jaundiced old git within me thought it would never happen. I mean, when was the last time cricket’s authorities actually managed to (a) pull their collective fingers out of their arses, and (b) actually agree on something simultaneously?
Although we’re still waiting to hear some of the details – they haven’t announced how the points system will work yet – I’m hugely encouraged by this news. Test cricket desperately needed a shake-up to capture the broader public’s imagination, and a championship over a two year period will add extra excitement and context to matches.
Part of me thought that the ICC might just reduce test cricket from five days to four, in the hope that contrived declarations and potentially higher run rates would create extra interest. Call it the Harrison / Graves model if you like. The arrival of an actual championship, something we’ve long campaigned for on this blog, is therefore most welcome indeed. I know that many of us thought it would simply be too hard to orchestrate and implement.
Talking of four day test cricket, the idea isn’t a dead duck yet. The ICC still intend to experiment with the idea and see what the reaction is. Again this is probably a sensible approach. Although I personally think it’s a bad idea, I’m willing to be proved wrong.
I’d love to know what everyone else thinks of this news. Although there will still be the odd boring dead-rubber match (particularly in the ODI league) it’s worth noting that results will count towards World Cup qualification.
It’s also great to know that institutions such as The Ashes can survive within the proposed system. It might be a bit odd if winning a five-match series gives a team the same number of championship points as winning a two-match series, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
For the moment let’s just celebrate the fact that the ICC has recognised a problem, has tried hard to come up with a solution, and has possibly arrived at a decent one. It’s highly encouraging even if one generally has low expectations.
Well done to Shashank Manohar and his colleagues. There are still considerable challenges to overcome – playing the right amount of T20 cricket being the main one – but the depressing times when N Shrinivasan was ICC Chairman thankfully seem to be in the rearview mirror.
Today is a good day. Let’s enjoy it.