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Scrap ICC 10 Year Plan Now!

By Gaurang
August 14 2004

From the very beginning the ICC’s 10 Year Plan for Test Cricket was a fataly flawed monstrosity that has served to basically suck the joy out of Test cricket for the average fan and even for the average player. Declining attendances at Tests matches around the world except in England and Australia, which not surprisingly are the home of the ICC's hidebound executives, is proof positive that the ICC is way out of touch with what the modern cricket fan desires.

The stated purpose of the plan was to ensure that every Test country's team played every other team, home and away, at least once over the ridiculously long period of ten years. This was necessitated by the ICC’s adoption of a Test Championship plan that was the silliest of any major sport in the world. The result has been hastily planned and played series mostly of the minimum two Tests required, often between completely mismatched opponents, just to make points, though nobody really wants to even see them play. Even teams and series that lots of people would want to see being played such as South Africa versus Sri Lanka are reduced to abbreviated series to meet ICC obligations.

It is particularly peculiar that the ICC decided that unlike any other major competitive sport Test cricket did not deserve a clear cut Champion based on an intelligible competition, with a fixed period of “Champion” status. Instead it determined what the fans were interested in was a rolling “Championship” based on an ongoing series of matches where one team is designated as the “Champion” for an undetermined period of time, which can be half a decade or half a week, and is determined not solely by the performance of the “Champion” team but by the cricket schedule and the form of the other Test teams in the world.

To the modern sports fan this is completely insane. And it makes the stereotyping that other sports, such as baseball, use to deride cricket, as an arcane pursuit played by fuddy duddies who can’t determine a winner after five days of competition, or 5 years of competition, as the case may be, seem to be quite appropriate.

What is needed is an immediate Scrapping of the current 10 year plan. In its place I suggest a simple biennial Championship. The proposed Championship would take geographical realities and traditional rivalries into consideration.

First of all the number of Test teams needs to be culled to eight, and Bangladesh and Zimbabwe should not be part of the Championship. Then divide the teams around the world into two zones

North Zone: England, India, Pakistan, West Indies

South Zone: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka

Have teams WITHIN each zone play each other once at home and away in 3 match series, for a total of 18 Test matches each. At the end of the 18 Test "Season" the top two team in each Zone will play in a playoff. The top team can even be given a Zonal trophy which would be akin to the League penant in major league baseball. The team would also have Zonal bragging rights.

The playoffs will consist of a 5 Test match series with the Champion Team of each Zone getting home advantage. This means the North Champion plays the South runner-up at Home and the South Champion plays the North runner up at Home. Then the two winners of these two series play a 5 Test Final series. The team with the better record gets home advantage again.

In all playoff games, i.e. not the first 18 league Test matches a 'dead rubber' rule applies... so when one team has won 3 matches the Series is OVER.

The benefit of this plan is that over a period of two years every country plays a minimum of 18 matches and a maximum of 28 matches (if each 5 Test playoff series goes the full distance)... this works out to between 9 and 14 Tests per year. This is a work load that all players would be willing to shoulder, especially as each and every match would have great meaning and would be eagerly followed not just by the fans of the respective teams but by other teams’ fans too. Of course the biggest benefit would be that a Test Champion would be crowned every two years and would hold the Crown for at least the next two years. This would make Test cricket so much more attractive to the non aficionado, while allowing the die hard to still enjoy the game fully.

There could be a similar tournament organized for the teams one rung below the top level, i.e. Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Kenya, UAE, USA, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, etc... and the top team from that group can be given entry into the top level with the bottom ranking team from the elite group dropping down. These lower level games would be accorded First Class but not Test status.

In combination with the current mini knock out World Cup every two years and a Full World Cup every four years, such a Test Championship would enhance the game immensely.

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