Two-tier Test Cricket

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It was supposed to be the radical new structure which would help revive Test cricket across the world.

But now, the prospect of a two-tier international system seems to be withering on the vine as the sport’s elite nations decide to preserve the status quo. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had already voiced public opposition to the scheme, which has been enthusiastically backed by the ICC’s chief executive Dave Richardson.

But the plan was effectively strangled at birth on Wednesday when the Indian board president confirmed his organisation is against the proposal, which would have seen the creation of two divisions of Test cricket, the first a league of seven, the second a group of five, including the two best Associate representatives.

The BCCI’s Anurag Thakur doesn’t seem interested in the argument that the Test circuit is growing increasingly stale. Nor indeed that the gulf between the cream and the also-rans is being dramatically exposed by his Indian compatriots who are currently in the process of demolishing a shambolic West Indian line-up in the Caribbean.

Instead, he stated: “The BCCI is against a two-tier Test structure because the smaller countries will lose out and the BCCI wants to take care of them. It is necessary to protect their interests.”

This, I would submit, is one of the most illogical and weaselly arguments that has been put forward in the ongoing debate about the best means of safeguarding Test cricket.

For starters, the two-tier notion is designed to help provide a pathway for the “smaller nations”. It has been backed by Afghanistan, by Ireland and Scotland and, prior to the ICC meeting in Edinburgh earlier this summer, it seemed to be a case of when, not if, the governing body would unveil their grand vision.

Perhaps we should have been more concerned at the failure of the ICC to reach any conclusions at their lengthy convention in Scotland, but Richardson and his colleagues assured us they were proceeding with the proposals and would flesh out the details before their next meeting in Dubai.

But now, while the procrastination continues, India have effectively killed it stone dead. As one of the game’s Big Three, they carry a huge amount of clout, which explains why they can ignore DRS, create the world’s biggest T20 tournament and dominate the Asian hierarchy.

Because, let’s face it, India don’t want two tiers, neither do Sri Lanka, who have just beaten the ICC’s No 1 side Australia, and Bangladesh, who have come on in leaps and bounds in the last two years. The West Indies – as good at T20 as they are hopeless in the Test milieu – aren’t likely to vote for a scheme which could consign them to the second division. Likewise Zimbabwe, whose continuing presence among the ICC’s Full Members is entirely undeserved.

It makes you wonder about the credibility of Richardson, who seems to devise policy on the hoof without gaining the votes he requires to transform honeyed words into genuine change in the game.

It also forces you to question: why didn’t India lay out their position in Edinburgh? Why wait until now? And how is Thakur helping the sport by guaranteeing mediocrity and inadequacy are allowed to carry on unpunished among the ICC elite?

The Associate family are striving to improve their standards and one after another, as I spoke to Warren Deutrom, Ed Joyce, Preston Mommsen, Craig Wright and William Porterfield, I detected genuine excitement at the thought of a new structure which encouraged hard work and ambition and was run on the principle of merit?

It already looks as if it was yet more smoke and mirrors from the ICC.

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