ICC unveils long-awaited Test championship to begin in 2019

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Lord's will stage the final.

The International cricket Council unveiled a long-awaited, nine-nation Test championship Friday in a bid to preserve the five-day format’s status following the rapid growth of Twenty20.

The Test league was among a raft of reforms agreed at an ICC board meeting in Auckland, including revamping the one-day international schedule and trialling four-day Tests.

“Our priority was to develop (a) structure that gave context and meaning across international cricket and particularly in the Test arena,” ICC chief David Richardson said in a statement.

The Test league will start in 2019 and see nine teams play six series over two years – three home and three away. It will culminate in a final between the two top teams at Lord’s.

The ICC has argued for years that a Test championship is needed to boost the format’s popularity as crowds and TV viewers flock to the fast-paced, big-hitting Twenty20 version of the game.

It first appointed a committee to examine the concept back in 1998. But squabbling over formats, and fears that some nations will be disadvantaged, have twice stymied efforts to launch a league structure since 2010.

“Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but this is the first time a genuine solution has been agreed on,” ICC chairman Shashank Manohar said.

The nine nations in the competition are Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and West Indies.

Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland called it “a really significant moment in international cricket history”.

“It’s a tremendous step forward. The ICC and member countries have made a strong statement about international cricket and how we want to make sure it remains at the forefront of the three forms of the game.”

THIRD-TIME LUCKY? 

The ICC will hope it’s a case of third time lucky for the Test championship after two previous attempts failed without a ball being bowled in anger.

A version was supposed to begin in 2013 but was scrapped because existing commercial arrangements meant the ICC was obliged to stage the one-day Champions Trophy instead.

Then plans for a June 2017 launch were scuppered when some of the game’s powerbrokers, including India, objected to a proposed two-tier league system, saying smaller teams would be disadvantaged.

There was also a reported lack of interest from television companies.

Purists view Test cricket as the pinnacle of the sport but it has struggled, particularly in Asia, as lucrative T20 competitions such as the Indian Premier League caught the public’s imagination.

A recent innovation designed to reverse the trend is the introduction of day-night Test matches, which moves playing sessions to more spectator-friendly hours after dark.

The Auckland meeting also agreed to experiment with four-day Tests, with South Africa and Zimbabwe set to trial the first in December.

Richardson emphasised that the shorter Test matches were only being trialled and their results would not be part of the new Test championship.

“Throughout the discussions about the future of Test cricket it became clear… we must also consider alternatives and trial initiatives that may support the future viability of Test cricket,” he said.

The ICC will also establish a 13-nation one-day international league starting in 2020, with results counting towards World Cup qualification.

It argued that the league structure would give added context to Test and ODI fixtures, rather than the current system of bilateral series which have little bearing on other teams.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Indian cricket fans apologise to Australian team at Guwahati airport after rock throwing incident

Ashish Peter 11/10/2017
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Fans were on hand to apologise to Aaron Finch and co at the airport.

Guwahati, the venue for the recently concluded second T20I between India and Australia, showed its ugly side when miscreants threw a rock at the visitors’ team bus while it was on the way to the hotel.

Australia’s opener Aaron Finch had posted an image of the shattered window of the team bus on his Twitter profile on Tuesday night.

The 30-year-old batsman had accompanied the pic with a caption which said, “Pretty scary having a rock thrown through the team bus window on the way back to the hotel!!”

The visitors had thrashed India by eight-wickets in the match to square the three-match series at 1-1.

On Wednesday, Guwahati showed its classy side when hundreds of cricket supporters turned up at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International airport to bid the Australian team farewell along with a profound apology.

Guwahati, a city mostly imbibed with football fever, welcomed back international cricket after an eight year long hiatus at the newly inaugurated Barsapara Cricket stadium on Tuesday.

A large crowd of fans had gathered at the airport for the arrival of both teams on Sunday and a similarly large gathering turned up on Wednesday along with placards carrying messages of apology for the rock throwing incident.

The main message of the placards carried by the fans was “Sorry Australia.”

While incidents such as that of Tuesday are deplorable, the true passionate supporters of the city have shown what international cricket means to them.

With the fear of Guwahati being sidelined for future India matches, one can hope that the gesture shown by the fans on Wednesday will get it a reprieve.

The two sides will meet at Hyderabad for the final T20I on Friday which will mark the culmination of Australia’s limited-overs tour of India.

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Pakistan in line to become Ireland's first ever Test opponents in 2018

Ashish Peter 11/10/2017
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Ireland and Pakistan could play a Test at Malahide in May, 2018.

Ireland, the latest entrants in the Test club along with Afghanistan, could be set to play their first official Test against Pakistan in May next year.

Cricket Ireland are hoping to persuade Pakistan to be its first opponents in the longest format of the game at Malahide next year.

Cricket Ireland officials will be travelling to Auckland in New Zealand for the ICC Board meeting this week where they will lobby for international fixtures for the next two calendar years.

According to a report published by the Independent in Ireland, a well placed source has revealed that Irish cricket officials will look to use the Auckland meeting to tie down Pakistan for the Malahide fixture.

“The interim spadework has been done,” the source told the Independent.

Pakistan are popular visitors to Ireland over the years with their fan support.

Pakistan are popular visitors to Ireland over the years with their fan support.

Pakistan have just come off their first ever Test series defeat in the UAE since moving base in 2009 after Sri Lanka pulled off a shock upset.

Pakistan is scheduled to tour England for two Tests, fives ODIs and a solitary T20I in May next year and Ireland hopes to use this window to organize the match at Malahide.

The subcontinent team might not play another Test until the proposed clash with Ireland next year. They were scheduled to tour India in early 2018 but that bilateral series remains off limits currently owing to the Indian Government’s stance.

The team is currently coming to terms with the retirements of greats like Misbah ul Haq and Younis Khan after sliding from the top of the ICC Test rankings to a lowly seventh below Sri Lanka after their latest defeat.

Ireland and Afghanistan were granted full Test membership rights after years of lobbying in the Annual General Meeting of the ICC in London earlier this June.

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