Famous silverware assumes centre stage
A new dawn for international cricket has been confirmed but ICC chief executive Dave Richardson has no doubt that more still needs to be done if the test format is to survive.
Following the ICC board meeting in Auckland yesterday, Richardson, as expected, announced the establishment of a test championship (from 2020) and one-day international league (from 2020).
In doing so, the former South African wicketkeeper also revealed that four-day test cricket would be explored on a trial basis up until the 2019 World Cup, with the first try-out set to take place between South Africa and Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth on Boxing Day.
Led by England and with highlevel backing from Sir Richard Hadlee and Shane Bond in recent weeks, four-day matches are seen as a way to revive interest in countries where the five-day game is dying.
Richardson admitted there remained widespread scepticism, among players and administrators alike, as to whether four-day tests are the way forward.
But he said there was universal approval from the ICC board to push ahead with trials as they seek to preserve the purist form of the game.
‘‘Our priority has been to develop an international structure that gives context and meaning across all three formats, in particular test series. But we still have to acknowledge that there is a question around the the sustainability of test cricket.
‘‘Is four-day [test] cricket going to provide a better product, one that more people will be interested in? Who knows, but unless we trial it we’ll never know.
‘‘Similar to the way we’ve conducted day-night test matches with the pink ball and using technology, we’re going to do the same now with [four-day matches].’’
The playing conditions still need to be finalised by the ICC cricket committee but they are likely to be similar to the first-class format, with six-and-a-half hour days consisting of 98 overs.
It is hoped four-day tests will reduce costs and lead to more opportunities for developing nations while, ultimately, creating a more attacking brand of cricket.
‘‘Moving to for-day tests will inevitably change the way captains approach the game,’’ Richardson said. ‘‘In the end I think it might produce more attacking cricket than before. This
A test series championship involving nine teams playing six series over two years - three home and three away - starting in 2019.
A one-day international league involving 13 teams, starting in 2020, which determined qualification for the ODI World Cup
A trial of four-day test matches to run until the 2019 World Cup. Members will be able schedule the tests by mutual agreement, but the new test championship will have five-day tests.
A player will have to reside in a country for three years before becoming eligible to represent it. is what we want to find out.’’
New Zealand Cricket welcomed the introduction of the test and ODI leagues, although chairman Greg Barclay said they were ‘‘ambivalent’’ on the four-day experiment.
Barclay said their priority is the continuation of five-day tests and have no plans for any trial matches at this stage.
‘‘There are a number of countries that probably lend them- selves to four-day cricket for a variety of reasons ... so it will be interesting to see how the trial goes,’’ Barclay said.
‘‘From our point of view, we will keep an open mind. We are certainly not opposed to it but at the moment we continue to support the status quo.’’
The test championship will see nine teams play six series over two years – three home and three away.
The bilateral series will be contested over a minimum of two matches and a maximum of five, with points to be allocated for every series and the top two teams meeting in a one-off final.
The 13-nation ODI league, meanwhile, will operate between World Cups and also be used to determine which teams qualify for the showpiece 50-overs tournament every four years.
The goal is to provide context and meaning around every test and ODI series as the longest format struggles for relevance, crowds and broadcasting revenue.
‘‘This is a significant point in time for ICC members and our collective desire to secure a vibrant future for international bilateral cricket,’’ Richardson said.
The ICC board will now set about finalising a playing schedule for the opening edition as well as the points system and competition terms. There were double takes and a few whispered questions at Wellington’s Midland Park on a Friday lunchtime.
Yes, indeed it was The Masters trophy and the Claret Jug, famed prize for golf’s Open Championship, perched in glass cases and drawing curious, sometimes awestruck glances.
Beaming Royal Wellington officials looked on, notably club captain Andrew Harcourt and president Marty Scott, whose club hosts the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship from October 26-29.
For a field of 120 of the best amateurs from the region, notably Australia, Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand and New Zealand - who get 10 entries as host nation - that’s the winning prize. The golden ticket of amateur golf: direct entry to The Masters at Augusta and the Open Championship at Carnoustie for the winner of the 72-hole strokeplay event.
‘‘It’s hard to believe it’s nearly here, after a couple of years of planning and re-investing in the club and the course to get it to tournament standard,’’ Harcourt said.
‘‘It’s very hard for us to describe the enormity of this event and the infrastructure surrounding it. Having seen it in Korea last year, it’s as big as any PGA Tour event, even though it’s an amateur tournament.’’
Money talks, and this tournament has high-profile backing from The Masters who invest millions and will send many greenjacketed members from Augusta. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club are on board, too, for the ninth edition of this annual tournament being hosted by New Zealand for the first time.
Direct entry to The Masters has always been the prize, but for the first time it’s a double whammy with the Open Championship granting a spot in their field, too. The catch-phrase is ‘‘creating heroes’’ and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama was the poster boy, winning it in 2010 and 2011 before starting a glittering pro career.
Royal Wellington bid for the tournament three years ago and had two years to prepare, having last hosted a big tournament at the 1995 New Zealand Open.
It was redesigned to championship standard by Greg Turner and Scott Macpherson, a facelift which cost $6.5 million, of which nearly $4 million was funded by members.
‘‘The list of things to given to us by The Masters is quite extensive and prescriptive. We’re working through that and we’ll have it presented in top order,’’ said Harcourt.
‘‘We’ve come out of the worst 18 months of rain conditions that I can recall so we’ve been battling that, but I think we’re on top of that and the course is looking fantastic. All we need is 2-3 days of sun and a bit of breeze and it’ll harden up.’’
The club’s target of 250 volunteers had been surpassed and they hopedfor big crowds, with the tournament being televised and beamed around the world.
‘‘People are starting to talk about it and there’s the curiosity factor from outside clubs who have heard us talk about it. It’s huge for Wellington, and Royal Wellington, and for New Zealand Golf, particularly golf tourism and will put us on the map.’’
The trophies will be on display at Paraparaumu Beach today and Boulcott’s Farm Heritage tomorrow, before settling in at their temporary home at Royal Wellington till the end of the tournament.
Cricket’s gradual revolution that has included night test matches continues to evolve after an ICC meeting in Auckland yesterday.
Annie Harcourt checks out the prestigious Claret Jug, prize for the Open Championship, in central Wellington yesterday.
Josh Tabor snaps a picture of the Masters trophy.