ICC to resume focus on competition to boost Test cricket

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive David Richardson has said the global governing body will make the establishment of a formal competition for the Test format one of its main priorities this year.

Cricket’s stakeholders have long deliberated the need for an equivalent to the World Cup competitions held in the 50-over one-day international (ODI) and 20-over Twenty20 disciplines, with their most recent efforts to form such an event collapsing in 2014.

In 2013, the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship (WTC) was proposed to take place in England in June/July 2017, with India potentially staging the next tournament in 2021. The WTC was envisioned 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, speaking today (Tuesday) in Cape Town, where South Africa is hosting England in the second match of their four-Test series, Richardson said discussions with full members about a possible competition had already begun and will continue over the next months before a concrete proposal is placed in the agenda for the ICC’s annual general meeting in June.

“We want to make a huge effort this year to put something in place that will help us sustain the value of bilateral cricket and, in particular, the profile of Test cricket,” Richardson said, according to the Reuters news agency. “The Ashes are still extremely successful and generate lots of money and generally Test series against India will generate money, but there are a lot of series that happen that do not make much more than just to cover the costs.

“We are consulting with all our members to see what we can do to give more context and meaning to bilateral cricket, whether that is introducing a Test league or Test championship or whether it's introducing proper qualification leagues, like they do in football, for ICC events. If something does come of it, existing television deals means it would only be able to be implemented after 2019.”

Richardson said the ICC’s other priorities for 2016 are the standardisation of technology for the umpire’s Decision Review System (DRS), to ensure a successful World Twenty20 tournament in India and to further develop the sport in the US.

He added: “We have engaged MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to do research on all the DRS technologies and, in particular, the edge-detection and ball-tracking so that we’ve got a institute with credibility to pronounce on that.

“Once we have those results, we can the review all the principles and policies around how the technology is used with the aim to produce a uniform DRS system that we can provide wherever international cricket is played. I can’t promise that everyone will accept it as yet; that’s an unknown, but once the MIT results are known hopefully that will make it easier to achieve.”

The uniform acceptance of DRS is one of the main challenges facing cricket with the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) remaining steadfast in its opposition, stating its stance will remain the same until it can be proved to be 100 per cent reliable.