Two-tier Test plan axed after India-led backlash
New Delhi: Controversial plans to create a two-tier Test system have been scrapped by cricket’s world governing body after the powerful Indian board led a backlash, senior officials said Thursday.
The proposal for a de facto premier league featuring the top seven sides had been welcomed by players and was one of the main agenda items at an International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting in Dubai which ended on Wednesday.
While the ICC said “significant progress” was made in discussions on “the future shape of all international cricket”, both the Indian and Bangladeshi boards confirmed the two-division proposal had been ditched.
“The officials at the meeting shot down the two-tier proposal,” Anurag Thakur, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), told AFP.
“The BCCI could have benefited financially from the two-tier system but morally we wanted to stand with the countries which would have been badly affected.”
His Bangladeshi counterpart Nazmul Hassan confirmed the plan had been taken off the table.
“It’s good news for us,” said Hassan, whose board had been fiercely critical of the plan which would have effectively deprived Bangladesh of the opportunity to play major Test teams.
“India and Sri Lanka were also with us, so we were more or less confident that it would not be approved. We are delighted to know that ICC has now informed us of this officially,” he told AFP.
Under the proposed revamp, designed to boost waning interest in Tests, the seven highest-ranked teams would have formed a top division.
The other three lowest-ranked sides—currently the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe—would have joined a second division also including the likes of Afghanistan and Ireland.
Although England, Australia and New Zealand were in favour, Thakur made his organisation’s opposition public last month, effectively rendering it dead in the water.
India, the game’s financial powerhouse, has a history of ensuring its stance prevails on key debates within the global body.
Thakur, whose predecessor Shashank Manohar is head of the ICC, said the plan should never have got off the ground.
“How could the ICC have proposed such a system in the first place? This should have been shot down at the outset,” he said.
Thakur said India would have stood to gain from playing more matches against teams such as England and Australia which attract big TV audiences and decent crowds.
“But countries such as Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh would have suffered huge losses and we didn’t want that,” he added.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, ICC chief executive David Richardson gave few details of the discussions in Dubai but did refer to long-standing plans for a Test championship play-off by the end of the decade.
“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,” said Richardson.
“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.”
The Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), which represents players around the world, said it would be “disappointing” if the two-tier proposal had been “shelved so early in this process”.
A recent FICA survey found 72% of players supported the idea of a divisional system, which would include the possibility of promotion and relegation, as a way of adding more meaning to each match.
AB de Villiers, South Africa’s Test captain, was quoted in the survey as saying players had already upped their game in anticipation of a split.
“We have already raised our intensity and urgency just knowing that a Test league might happen,” he said. “There is nothing like the pressure and adrenaline that comes with knowing you need to win matches.”
Test series are currently played in isolation, giving them little wider importance apart from their effect on the competing countries’ rankings.