The ICC’s proposal for a Test Championship may revive flagging interest in the five-day format | editorials | Hindustan Times
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The ICC’s proposal for a Test Championship may revive flagging interest in the five-day format

The proposal is for nine teams to play three-Test home-and-away series – five Tests will be allowed for major series like the Ashes but league points will be the same – over two years.

editorials Updated: Oct 11, 2017 10:03 IST
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland (Left) and Australian Cricketers' Association CEO Alistair Nicholson at a press conference in Melbourne. Sutherland’s proposal of an international Test cricket championship could be the booster dose the format needs.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland (Left) and Australian Cricketers' Association CEO Alistair Nicholson at a press conference in Melbourne. Sutherland’s proposal of an international Test cricket championship could be the booster dose the format needs. (AFP)

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is expected to give the long-awaited booster dose to Test cricket by approving a Test Championship at its board meeting in Auckland on Friday. Test cricket, founded on bilateral contests, is gasping for breath with dwindling interest barring the Ashes series and big-ticket clashes involving India due to its commercial pull.

The Test Championship has been pushed by the ICC Cricket Committee headed by India’s Anil Kumble and ICC bosses have long pleaded that the longest format won’t survive the Twenty20 storm without context.

The proposal is for nine teams to play three-Test home-and-away series – five Tests will be allowed for major series like the Ashes but league points will be the same – over two years. Starting in 2019, it will lead to the top two facing in a final at Lord’s in 2021. A 13-team One-day International league, to start after the 2019 World Cup, is also being planned. Three-match series will be the norm and the standing of teams – it is likely to replace ICC rankings – is expected to decide World Cup qualification.

The ICC push – Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland is an advocate for the Test Championship – has faced opposition from the Indian cricket Board, which is also against the two-tier Test format. Broadcasting contracts drawn up by national boards are also an issue.

However, the ICC under the chairmanship of India’s Shashank Manohar has been persistent, although compromises by the world body would mean a quiet change than a revolution. The ICC officials are said to have met the BCCI bosses and its broadcaster, Star India, recently to get the BCCI to back the proposal. India-Pakistan contests may be left out, though the Pakistan board is said to be insisting that the ICC should get the BCCI to agree for bilateral games outside the league.

Test cricket has struggled for too long. Dipping standards of teams, the influence of T20 and teams dominating mostly at home have all taken much out of its charm. Day-night Tests with pink ball – to attract fans -- are finding acceptance. South Africa wants to host Zimbabwe in a four-day Boxing Day Test for the first time ever. The ICC is likely to allow it, at least to test the waters.