As regular readers of this blog will know (if there are any), my consistent and main gripe with the cricket world is the lack of context with regards to Test Matches and ODIs. The latter has a World Cup every four years but because there is no qualification process for Full Members any ODIs between that time are basically meaningless bilaterals or knocked together triangular tournaments. Afghanistan and Ireland were recently added to the ODI rankings in an attempt to inject some element of context, as only the top 8 teams on the rankings qualify for 2019. This has little effect as both teams do not play enough ODIs to have a prayer of making it. SO there is clearly more that needs to be done, and recent noises from the ICC show they are finally starting to listen.
Two divisions in the test game has been talked about for ages. There have been numerable attempts to set up a World Test Championship which have always fallen by the wayside due to fixture congestion and an inability to agree TV rights and format. However the current proposal, up for discussion at the annual conference this week, is the most comprehensive yet.
Best news of all would be the expansion to twelve Test playing nations with Ireland and Afghanistan entering the fray. Bioth have been in the higher echelons of the Assocaite pyramid for years now and desevre their chance. A second division of five teams would throw the noses of the West Indies and Bangladesh out of joint, certainties as they are for the second division, but this would encourage teams to better themselves and would definitely provide more context to Test series. If the cycle was worked out properly it will still allow room in the calendar for marquee contests like the Ashes and money-spinning series against India.
On the other side of the coin, the threat of relegation from Division One would sharpen a few minds and ensure that even dead rubbers would carry significance. If the structure works as it should then those in the Intercontinental Cup would haver the opportunity to play off for the right to join Division Two, which would be great as the pathway to Test Cricket would be open to all. The proposals are a little rough and ready at the moment but deserve serious consideration and I hope a proposal comes out after the ICC annual conference.
Their ideas for an ODI league deserve praise, too. A 13 team league played over three years with an overall winner and relegation to the World Cricket League are good steps. Unfortunately the identity of the 13th team reveals the ICC still have a tendency to ignore meritocracy if they are seriously considering offering Nepal the final spot. Nepal is one of the growth countries in Asia with enormous potential, but they shouldn’t receive special treatment because of it. Indeed, if the ICC did promote them that would almost say they have no confidence in the current structure of the WCL, which would be a grave offence to teams such as the Netherlands, who currently lead the table.
So, some tentative movements in the right direction. We shall see what comes out of the ICC conference next week, although I suspect nothing will be ratified straightaway. I watch on with interest.