A genuine Test match world championship and an ODI league will be introduced to international cricket after both were given in-principle agreement by the ICC Board on the final day of the governing body’s meeting in Auckland.
While some details remain to be fleshed out, including the points system and the full week-by-week Future Tours Programme, the first two-year Test championship comprising the game’s top-nine teams will begin at the conclusion of the 2019 World Cup, with the top two teams by April 2021 to play off in a championship final.
Each competing country will play in six series over that time, three at home and three away, with all series being of a minimum two matches’ duration but able to be expanded to as many as five to cater for encounters such as the Ashes.
The first ODI league, featuring the game’s top 13 limited-overs nations, will commence in 2020-21, running for two years leading into the 2023 World Cup, before converting to a three-year league in each cycle beyond that. The 13th place in the ODI league will be taken by the winner of the ongoing ICC World Cricket League Championship. Each competing team will play in eight series over that time, each one being played over three matches. The days of lengthier ODI series appears to be over.
Shashank Manohar, the ICC chairman, said that member countries had moved with the times by accepting the need for greater context for international cricket, responding to the demands of broadcasters, sponsors and fans. “I would like to congratulate our members on reaching this agreement and putting the interests of the development of the game first,” he said. “Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but this is the first time a genuine solution has been agreed on.
“This means fans around the world can enjoy international cricket knowing every game counts and in the case of the ODI league, it counts towards qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup.”
While all Test championship matches will be played over five days, the ICC Board also approved the trial of four-day Tests in bilateral series up until 2019, following South Africa’s request to play a match over that distance against Zimbabwe during their forthcoming home season. A set of playing conditions for four-day Tests is set to be drawn up by ICC management in coming weeks.
“Our priority was to develop an international cricket structure that gave context and meaning across international cricket and particularly in the Test arena. This has been delivered and every Test in the new League will be a five-day Test format,” the ICC chief executive David Richardson said. “However throughout the discussions about the future of Test cricket it became clear that whilst context is crucial we must also consider alternatives and trial initiatives that may support the future viability of Test cricket.
“The trial is exactly that, a trial, just in the same way day-night Tests and technology have been trialled by members. Four-day Tests will also provide the new Test playing countries with more opportunities to play the longer version of the game against more experienced opponents, which, in turn, will help them to hone their skills and close the gap with the top-nine ranked teams.”
“This is a significant point in time for ICC members and our collective desire to secure a vibrant future for international bilateral cricket. The approval of both leagues is the conclusion of two years of work from the members who have explored a whole range of options to bring context to every game. The ICC Board decision today means we can now go and finalise a playing schedule for the first edition as well as the points system, hosting arrangements and competition terms.”
Numerous questions remain about how the new league structures will unfold, particularly around the fraught issue of bilateral cricket ties between India and Pakistan.
South Africa’s domestic 20-over competition is likely to be moved into the window left vacant by the T20 Global League, which was postponed earlier this week. The six-team franchise competition was originally due to be played in 2018 from March 14 until April 15 but could be brought forward by four months, subject to a final board approval.
In a teleconference on Thursday, the franchise CEOs were asked to confirm the feasibility of hosting the domestic T20 in that time and assured CSA it could be done. The only outstanding tick in the box is to check with the broadcasters but unlike the T20 Global League, CSA will not need to sign a new partner. SuperSport already hold the rights of all cricket played in South Africa.
A massive boost for the domestic tournament will be that all the national players will be available to participate, which is usually not the case. That means South Africa’s players will not be granted NOCs to play in other leagues, such as the Bangladesh Premier League, in that time. It is also unlikely that international opposition will be sought over that period.
“If there is an international tour in that time, only 12 or so guys will be playing. What about the rest of the players? They can’t sit around for six weeks and not do anything,” a source told ESPNcricinfo.
CSA was believed to be exploring options for hosting one of Pakistan or West Indies but acting CEO Thabang Moroe said the board will not enter into an endeavour which will cost them money. Only incoming tours against India, England and Australia make CSA money, so any other opposition would be loss-making and CSA cannot afford to incur more expenses. Instead, they will spend money they would have spent anyway on the 20-over competition. All that remains is for them to find a sponsor for it. Courier company Ram opted not to renew their deal last season, and it was played without a corporate backer.
When the competition was called the Ram Slam, it made headlines for the wrong reasons. A protracted match-fixing investigation took place from late 2015 until July this year during which seven players including four former internationals, Gulam Bodi, Alviro Petersen, Thami Tsolekile and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, were banned for between periods of two and 20 years. CSA maintained that no actual fixing took place but there were attempts made. Last season’s 20-over tournament was a low-profile affair which was played in November-December, while the Test team was in Australia. (ESPNCricinfo)