The International Cricket Council (ICC) took its contentious two-tier Test system off the table, as the two-day chief executives meeting in Dubai ended on Wednesday.
That the idea won’t turn into a reality became evident on the first day itself, when the BCCI opposed it with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) in tow. “Now, West Indies have also joined India (in opposing it) and Pakistan will join us soon,” BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke told The Indian Express.
“The two-tier proposal has been withdrawn, keeping in mind the objections raised by four members. There was no voting, only deliberations and eventually a consensus had been reached,” an ICC insider said.
BCCI president Anurag Thakur welcomed the decision, saying: “I am thankful to the members of the ICC who understood our viewpoint and agreed to take this proposal off the table. As one of the key stakeholders in world cricket, the BCCI would continue to have an inclusive approach and ensure that everyone’s interest and the growth of cricket aren’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,” he added.
As per the proposal, top seven teams would have played in Division I and three lower-ranked Full Member nations along with Ireland and Afghanistan in the second-tier. Promotion and relegation were part of the package as also the opportunity for other Associates to get into the lower rung of Test-playing nations based on performance.
ICC chief executive David Richardson was strongly in favour of the proposed change to reinvigorate the longest format and make bilateral series more exciting and meaningful. Players’ global body FICA, too, had supported the idea. But the most vital aspect had been missing; the BCCI’s backing.
Also, the plan to bring the World Test Championship back to the table didn’t cut much ice due to time constraints of the Full Members during the current FTP cycle.
The withdrawal of the divisional Test structure makes the proposed centralised marketing of the global rights of bilateral series redundant as well.
The issues are interlinked, because the radical overhaul only becomes viable with an increase in the number of Test-playing countries. Placing the global broadcast rights of each board in a pool, to be marketed by the ICC in a bundle, had been considered with an eye to distribute the revenue equally among the contributing boards and reach untapped markets.
But the BCCI considered it to be a “losing proposition”.
Richardson’s media statement following the two-day meeting said: “Significant progress on the future shape of all international cricket has been made at the two-day cricket structures workshop in Dubai as Members have explored how to improve the quality of bi-lateral cricket.
“The focus has been on solutions that will grow fan interest and engagement by delivering high quality cricket with the best players playing in an environment where every match counts. Encouragingly there is an appetite from the ten full members for more context around all three formats of the game and we have consensus on a range of areas. 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.”
Richardson also said that there were some ‘complexities’ because of scheduling and existing structures.
“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 bi-lateral cricket for fans and players in the long run.”