Two-tier pro­posal shelved at ICC meet­ing SLC chief pushes for four-day Tests

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

THE In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil (ICC) has with­drawn the pro­posal for a two-tier struc­ture in Test cricket at the meet­ing of its chief ex­ec­u­tives’ com­mit­tee (CEC) in Dubai yes­ter­day, de­spite six full mem­bers re­port­edly be­ing in favour of it.

There was no vote at the meet­ing but the con­sen­sus was to take the pro­posal “off the ta­ble” for the mo­ment.

“There was a sig­nif­i­cant com­pro­mise and it was sub­se­quently de­cided to with­draw the two-tier pro­posal,” a chief ex­ec­u­tive who at­tended the meet­ing told ESPNcricinfo.

He said the BCCI, Sri Lanka Cricket, the BCB and Zim­babwe Cricket had op­posed the pro­posal, which had found sup­port from the boards of Aus­tralia, Eng­land, South Africa, New Zealand, Pak­istan and West Indies.

On Mon­day, the play­ers’ global body FICA had re­vealed that 72 per­cent of play­ers quizzed for the body’s an­nual sur­vey were in favour of “the in­tro­duc­tion of a di­vi­sional Test com­pe­ti­tion to add more mean­ing to each match”.

The FICA ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Tony Ir­ish had urged the ICC Board to care­fully con­sider the new model.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­posal, the two-tier sys­tem would com­prise seven teams in the top tier and five in the bot­tom, with pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion between the two based on per­for­mance.

To be­gin, Afghanistan and Ire­land, as the lead­ing As­so­ciate teams, would join the three low­est-ranked Test play­ing na­tions in the bot­tom tier, with other As­so­ciates hav­ing a chance at pro­mo­tion based on per­for­mance.

The two-day CEC meet­ing was not part of the quar­terly meet­ings held each year by the ICC but a spe­cial meet­ing where Mem­ber Board rep­re­sen­ta­tives con­vened to dis­cuss in­ter­na­tional cricket struc­tures in all three for­mats.

The chief ex­ec­u­tives dis­cussed al­ter­na­tive mod­els to in­vig­o­rate the health of Test and ODI cricket, and pro­vide more con­text to fix­tures, while tak­ing into ac­count the dan­ger of ex­ces­sive Twenty20 cricket.

One pro­posal was to bring back the World Test Cham­pi­onship, but many board rep­re­sen­ta­tives in­clud­ing strong mem­bers like BCCI were not in favour of it.

“They wanted a Test Cham­pi­onship. That can­not hap­pen be­cause there is not time enough for ev­ery­body to play ev­ery­one [in the cur­rent Fu­ture Tours Pro­gramme cy­cle],” a chief ex­ec­u­tive said.

An­other pro­posal was for the top-two teams in the ICC rank­ings to have a play-off for the Test Cham­pi­onship.

It was de­cided that the chief ex­ec­u­tives would dis­cuss that plan with their own boards be­fore de­lib­er­at­ing fur­ther.

The ICC state­ment fol­low­ing the meet­ing yes­ter­day was vague.

The ICC chief ex­ec­u­tive David Richard­son said “sig­nif­i­cant progress” had been made at the two-day work­shop where chief ex­ec­u­tives had dis­cussed how to im­prove the qual­ity of bi­lat­eral cricket.

“En­cour­ag­ingly there is an ap­petite from the 10 Full Mem­bers for more con­text around all three for­mats of the game and we have con­sen­sus on a range of ar­eas,” Richard­son said.

“This in­cludes the de­tails of ODI and T20 struc­tures and prin­ci­ples around Test cricket sched­ules, which in­clude the con­cept of a Test Cham­pion play-off ev­ery two years, and the op­por­tu­nity for more na­tions to be in­volved.”

Without say­ing the two-tier pro­posal was off the ta­ble, Richard­son said any new model would be put in place only from 2019, when broad­cast deals are re­newed by the Full Mem­bers.

“There are some com­plex­i­ties, not least be­cause of sched­ul­ing and ex­ist­ing struc­tures, but we en­vis­age the changes be­ing im­ple­mented for 2019.

“Mem­bers will now re­vert to their boards to share the de­tails of the pro­posed re­vised struc­tures and prin­ci­ples.

‘‘Work will con­tinue to de­velop a clear struc­ture and po­si­tion for each for­mat over the com­ing months as the ICC col­lec­tively fo­cuses on im­prov­ing bi­lat­eral cricket for fans and play­ers in the long run.” — ESPNCricinfo. WHILE ex­press­ing dif­fer­ing views on the ICC’s de­ci­sion to with­draw the pro­posal for two-tier Test cricket, Full Mem­ber boards wel­comed the dis­cus­sions opened up at yes­ter­day’s chief ex­ec­u­tives’ meet­ing on ways to sus­tain the long­est for­mat of the game.

Thi­langa Su­math­ipala, the SLC pres­i­dent, called for boards to mar­ket Test cricket more vig­or­ously, and sug­gested four-day Tests as a step to­wards in­creas­ing the ex­cite­ment around the for­mat.

“[With­draw­ing the two-tier pro­posal is] a very wise de­ci­sion as far as SLC is con­cerned,” Su­math­ipala said.

“It’s go­ing to give us more time to re­visit and to see how, while we are main­tain­ing our top 10 Test-play­ing na­tions, we could al­low emerg­ing Test-play­ing na­tions to join, while mak­ing sure that the tour­na­ment ef­fect is tak­ing place.

‘‘We’re go­ing for­ward to­gether in this. I’m happy with the new line of think­ing, and I’m happy we are not pur­su­ing the seven-five two-tier sys­tem.”

Ex­plain­ing SLC’s op­po­si­tion to the two-tier sys­tem, Su­math­ipala spoke of how hard Sri Lanka had fought to achieve Test sta­tus.

“Test sta­tus was a hard-earned sta­tus for us,” he said. “We were ICC cham­pi­ons in 1979. We’ve played more than 100 years of cricket - Test sta­tus didn’t come to any of us overnight.

‘‘We gained it through sheer hard work. The game has a chal­lenge to face, but we should look at the eco­nomic and com­mer­cial side of things.”

Su­math­ipala em­pha­sised the need to en­gage and en­ter­tain fans, and sug­gested that four-day Tests were a bet­ter idea to en­hance the ap­peal and com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity of the long­est for­mat.

“Our think­ing is that we need more ef­fort to sus­tain Test cricket in the decades to come,” he said. “We have to in­vest into the game. We have to bring some fa­nen­gage­ment pro­grammes where we can keep in­ter­est go­ing.

‘‘Sus­tain­abil­ity is in the hands of the fans. They need to have en­ter­tain­ment in fol­low­ing the game.

“The flood­lit, pink-ball Tests have been some­what suc­cess­ful. We can im­prove from there.

‘‘We can play four-day cricket, start­ing on Thurs­day, which al­lows the games to come to a cli­max over the week­end, when peo­ple can watch.

‘‘Then after three days’ travel and rest, the play­ers can start the next Test on a Thurs­day as well. They can play 95 or 100-over days. There’ll be more ex­cite­ment. There will be in­ter­est and com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity. That’s what we be­lieve.”

The BCCI has con­sis­tently op­posed the two-tier pro­posal, and its pres­i­dent Anurag Thakur re­it­er­ated his view that split­ting the game into two di­vi­sions would hurt smaller boards.

“I am thank­ful to the mem­bers of the ICC who un­der­stood our view­point and agreed to take this pro­posal off the ta­ble,” Thakur told PTI.

“As one of the key stake­hold­ers in world cricket, BCCI would con­tinue to have an in­clu­sive ap­proach and en­sure that ev­ery­one’s in­ter­ests and the growth of cricket isn’t com­pro­mised.

“We want to grow the game and take it to new pas­tures and will not al­low any step which can shrink the pop­u­lar­ity and de­vel­op­ment of the game.”

James Suther­land, the Cricket Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive, had urged boards to look at the “big pic­ture” of the two-tier pro­posal, and see it as a means to bring more struc­ture and con­text to Test cricket.

While the pro­posal was shelved, Suther­land was con­fi­dent the dis­cus­sions ini­ti­ated at the meet­ing would pave way for an “im­proved model” for bi­lat­eral cricket.

“Cricket Aus­tralia wel­comes the progress made in dis­cus­sions with other mem­ber coun­tries in Dubai this week,” he said.

“The work­shop pro­vided a fo­rum for all views to be heard and dis­cussed - and for mem­bers to work to­gether to build an im­proved model for bi­lat­eral cricket played between na­tions.

‘‘More im­por­tant than any­thing, we are con­fi­dent that the ad­di­tional struc­ture and con­text pro­posed for each of the three for­mats will sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance cricket’s of­fer­ing to fans across the globe.

“Our thoughts on the need for change are well known and we are op­ti­mistic that all mem­ber coun­tries are open to mean­ing­ful im­prove­ments that will sup­port an even more suc­cess­ful and sus­tain­able fu­ture for in­ter­na­tional cricket.”

Niza­mud­din Chowd­hury, the BCB chief ex­ec­u­tive, has been one of the pri­mary op­po­nents of the two-tier sys­tem. He thanked the ICC for tak­ing it off the ta­ble.

“We are de­lighted we could con­vince other mem­bers of the neg­a­tive im­pact it would have on Bangladesh cricket,” Chowd­hury said.

“I thank them for un­der­stand­ing our sit­u­a­tion. I also want to thank the ICC man­age­ment for or­gan­is­ing this work­shop.

‘‘The two-tier sys­tem is off the ta­ble, and we will now dis­cuss the fu­ture struc­ture of cricket in the com­ing days.”

ESPNcricinfo un­der­stands, mean­while, that the PCB had been in sup­port of the two-tier pro­posal, in a bid to add con­text to their bi­lat­eral agree­ments with var­i­ous coun­tries.

The board also be­lieved the sys­tem would have given Pak­istan in­creased op­por­tu­ni­ties to play com­pet­i­tive se­ries against strong teams, and that this would have height­ened in­ter­est in Test cricket back home.

With bi­lat­eral se­ries against cer­tain teams not at­tract­ing lu­cra­tive broad­cast deals, the PCB had hoped a two-tier sys­tem would have helped raise the com­mer­cial pro­file of Test cricket. — ESPNCricinfo

FICA ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Tony Ir­ish

SLC pres­i­dent Thi­langa Su­math­ipala

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