The International Cricket Council, on Friday, gave its approval to a long-awaited Test Championship in addition to a One Day Internatioal League. The Test Championship is being doubted as a measure to deal with dwndling stadium attendances and interest for the longest format of the game. The concept has been doing the rounds for a few years now but this is the first instance of such an event getting official approval. The ODI league, on the other hand, is something that is in place for women’s cricket and it was what decided which teams qualified for the 2017 World Cup.
When will the Championship start?
The first Test Championship will be played right after the 2019 World Cup. For now, the Championship will include only five day matches with the proposed four day game between Zimbabwe and South Africa yet ot get approval.
How will the Championship be played?
The exact schedule of the Championship is yet to be worked out but the ICC has decided that nine Test playing nations will be play three series at home and away against each other. A team’s performance decides the number of points that they gain after each match and series. The winner will be decided with a World Test League final.
Will India and Pakistan also play matches against each other now that it is part of an ICC event?
There is yet to be word on any series between India and Pakistan. India have refused to play any bilateral series with Pakistan but the two sides have played each other in ICC tournaments, most prominently in the final of the Champions Trophy earlier in the year. According to Cricbuzz, the ICC has assured the Pakistan Cricket Board that it will get to play India either inside or outside the leagues.
How will this be useful in increasing interest for Test cricket?
Unlike ODIs and T20Is that lead up to respective 50-over and 20-over World Cups and other tournaments, Test cricket is solely based on bilateral series and that tends to produce dead rubbers which seldom attract interest. Also, there have been cases of teams “surrendering” matches when they find themselves in an untenable situation. In case of the Championship, every match will carry value, regardless of how the series stands. Apart from this, players who avoid Test cricket to remain fit for the shorted formats may find motivation to play. Above all, importance of every match might prompt fans to come watch more matches in the stadiums.
Is this the first instance of such a Championship being played?
The current ICC ranking system is called a Test Championship and a Test Mace is given as the trophy is given to the captain of a team that clinches the no. 1 spot. But it is nothing more than a ranking system and seldom has a finallity to it, something that will be brought on by a Championship. The concept was first mooted by former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd, then PCB and Cricket South Africa, then called United Cricket Board of South Africa chiefs Arif Ali Abbasi and Ali Bacher in 1997. They had called for a Test World Cup to be played. Years later, in 2009, the ICC discussed with the Marylebone Cricket Club and asked it to make up a format for a potential Test Championship. The Championship was supposed to be played in 2013 in England but it was scrapped due to logistical obstacles. England was instead awarded the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
When will the league start?
The ICC has said that the ODI league will start sometime in 2020 and will decide the teams that qualify directly for the 2023 World Cup.
Which are the teams that participate?
12 full members and one associate member will play in the league for getting into the 10 spots that guarantee automatic qualification to the World Cup. The Associate nation that plays will first have to win the ICC World Cricket League Championship. This format makes it difficult for Associate nations to participate in the World Cup as they have to compete with the Full Members for an automatic qualification spot.