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ICC set to introduce Test Championship, ODI league

Cricket’s key stakeholders are expected to sign off major reforms of the Test and one-day international (ODI) formats of the sport at meetings to be held later this week.

International Cricket Council (ICC) meetings are due to commence in Auckland, New Zealand on Wednesday, with the proposals expected to be rubber-stamped at a board meeting on Friday. Australian news agency Fairfax Media said these meetings are set to result in the long-mooted formation of a World Test Championship (WTC).

In May, the ICC’s Cricket Committee called on the introduction of a competition dedicated to the core format of the sport. The committee expressed unanimous support for the implementation of a Test cricket competition deeming that context was “crucial” to the future of international cricket.

The ICC was in September 2016 forced to withdraw plans for a two-tier system for the Test format, amid reported opposition from four full members. Cricket’s stakeholders have long deliberated over the need for an equivalent to the World Cup competitions held in the 50-over ODI and 20-over T20 disciplines, with their most recent efforts to form such an event collapsing in 2014.

In 2013, the inaugural edition of a WTC was proposed to take place in England in June/July 2017, with India potentially staging the next tournament in 2021. The WTC was envisaged to provide a four-year window to determine a true No.1 team and offer added incentive to the Test series leading up to the main event itself, while bolstering the position of cricket’s most historic format in the face of ODIs and T20s.

The ICC ultimately conceded defeat on this vision in February 2014, stating it “proved impossible” to come up with a format for a four-team finals event that fitted the culture of Test cricket and preserved the integrity of the format.

However, Fairfax Media has said plans are now well advanced for a nine-nation Test championship that in its first edition would be run over a cycle of two years from 2019, leading to the two top-placed teams competing in a final at Lord’s in London, England. The ODI format will also reportedly be revamped into a 13-nation league running over a three-year cycle, contributing to World Cup qualification with the leading teams also contesting a play-off at its finale.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland told Fairfax: “I don't think people have quite cottoned on to how significant this is. Context is one thing but you're also creating structure in such a way that you no longer have games without meaning. They are all part of a league championship. There is a story, there is a narrative behind it all.

“It's part of a multi-lateral championship that everyone is a part of. Not only is there context for the two teams in a series, but the good thing is there (is) an extra third-party interest. For other countries it means something for them as well because the result could determine where they end up.”

Under the proposal, teams will reportedly play three Test series at home and three away over the two years of the championship, while the ODI league will feature two series home and away each year.

Fairfax said the proposed points system for the Test championship would see 100 points on offer for every series – 60 points to the winner and the remaining 40 allocated based on the results of the individual matches. Meanwhile, ODI series would be capped at three games apiece.

Sutherland added: “In terms of the question marks about one-day cricket and its context… obviously there is clear context with the World Cup. We're building the concept around matches in between each World Cup and those games counting for World Cup qualification similar to the way football operates.

“But there is also the league table and championship, so rather than a whole heap of random one-day matches being played it adds some extra context. Everyone plays a certain amount of games and plays everyone in the cycle. There is real meaning to it.”