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World Cricket Committee calls on ICC to retain Test Championship plans

The MCC World Cricket Committee (WCC) has urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to press ahead with plans for a World Test Championship (WTC) amid reports that the sport’s governing body is considering scrapping the planned 2017 event due to a lack of interest from sponsors and broadcasters.

Having 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, the ICC last year gave the go-ahead to a four-team inaugural WTC to be contested in England by the leading four teams in its Test world rankings. Earlier this week, UK newspaper the Guardian reported that the Champions Trophy ODI tournament could be reprised in place of the WTC, while the ESPNCricinfo website today claimed the governing body was considering a two-tier Test format with promotion and relegation as an alternative to a showpiece tournament.

But the WCC, an independent group of prominent figures from the cricket world that was formed by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 2006 to offer expert advice and guidance over cricket’s rules and administration, has maintained its stance that the WTC should go ahead, even allowing for a one-off Test between the world’s top two countries if the proposed four-team approach is deemed unworkable.

The WCC, which is chaired by former England captain Mike Brearley and includes high-profile former players Andrew Strauss, Michael Vaughan, Rahul Dravid and Steve Waugh, released a statement that said: “The committee understands the commercial sensitivities and logistical issues surrounding the proposed World Test Championship, but feels that a solution must be found.  The committee would like to end the uncertainty for everyone in the game by pressing ahead with a WTC as announced, in 2017, and believes that Test cricket could suffer if the concept was dropped.  Without a WTC, the committee believes that the rankings system currently in use will lose much of its context and relevance, and that the rise of bi-lateral series between familiar foes will become the norm, to the detriment of the lower-ranked Test nations. A WTC involving only two teams is not the committee’s preferred solution, but it would be better than nothing.”

Concerns have also been raised regarding a possible detrimental impact on lower-ranked Test nations surrounding the Cricinfo report on the two-tiered structure now supposedly favoured in some quarters of the ICC ahead of its next round of executive board meetings later this month. Details of how promotion and relegation would work are yet to come to light, but a four-year play-off system for Test status – allowing leading Associate nations such as Ireland and Afghanistan to enter the fray – is thought to be under consideration. The system would be introduced on a “no disadvantage” condition, ensuring less successful Full Members such as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe do not lose their status.

However, the prospect of such countries benefitting from fewer money spinning matches against top nations such as Australia, England, India and South Africa is likely to be an area of strong deliberation. The ICC previously flagged the prospect of ODI promotion and relegation following its 2019 World Cup, while Vaughan last year spoke in favour of the incentives provided by such a system in Tests.