The ICC has confirmed its plans to start an official Test match world championship and ODI league, after years of speculation and elongated discussions at its general meeting in Auckland.
The plan is for the top-nine ranked Test playing nations to commence the two-year tournament after the 2019 World Cup, with a championship final scheduled for June 2021.
Some details are yet to be ironed out, but the news released today does help answer a few questions about the ICC’s plans for longest form of the game.
Why are they doing this?
The ICC is concerned for the future of Test cricket with interest supposedly dwindling amid the rise of the various Twenty20 leagues around the world.
The one word that often comes up when people debate Test cricket’s longevity in the 21st century is “context” — referring to the struggle to make global audiences care about often one-sided series between non-traditional rivals.
This move is a bid to address that, with every Test played over the two-year period counting towards the race for the overall title.
“Whether we can resurrect the interest in countries where the interest in Test cricket has fallen away is what we’re trying to hopefully achieve,” ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said.
“In the foreseeable future I’m very hopeful that test cricket will survive.”
How will it work?
Some finer details are still unknown to us, like how the points will be awarded from, but the plan is for every Test series between the “championship nations” to count towards an overall table, separate from the individual series themselves.
So when Australia and England play in 2019, they will still contest the Ashes over five Tests, but they will also accumulate points to the championship table at the same time.
The plan is for every country to play in six series over the course of the two years — three at home and three away. The lengths of the series can vary, and the final is set to be played in England.
“The ICC board decision today means we can now go and finalise a playing schedule for the first edition, as well as the points system, hosting arrangements and competition terms,” Richardson said.
What about ODIs?
There are plans in place for the 50-over game as well — a 13-team ODI league is scheduled to begin in 2020 and run for two years.
After the 2023 World Cup, the ODI league cycle will then be extended to three years, with each team playing eight series of no more than three games over the course of the cycle.
“Fans around the world can enjoy international cricket knowing every game counts — and in the case of the ODI league, it counts towards qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup,” ICC chairman Shashank Manohar said.
Are any other changes planned?
The ICC is going to trial four-day Test matches, but the plan is for that trial to end before this new championship begins in 2019.
South Africa and Zimbabwe will play a four-day Test this season, but at this stage it is unknown if any other country is eager to experiment with a slightly shortened format.
“The trial is exactly that — a trial. Just in the same way day-night Tests and technology have been trialled by members,” Richardson said.