“I don’t think anybody noticed!”
The never-ending conversation about a Test championship and a two-tiered system has been going on for many years.
The ICC have sat on their hands and not acted on what potentially could be a great thing for Test cricket.
As of January 2019, there are 12 Test match-playing nations. If we split these up, immediately we can see how a two-tiered system could operate.
The top six teams of India, South Africa. England, Australia, Pakistan and New Zealand would operate in one group. That would leave Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Zimbabwe and the West Indies in the other.
How it could work is over a two and a half year period, everyone in tier one played each other home-and-away. The Test series results simply could be four points for an away series win, three points for a home series win, two points for an away series draw, one point for a home series draw and zero for a loss.
After the 30 months of home-and-away Tests, the top two teams have a playoff, with the top team getting home advantage. The winner is crowned Test champions.
The pressure would be to remain in the top tier. If you finished sixth, you would drop to the lower division, and the top team from Division 2 would come up and play in the more prestigious group.
The bottom group would still all have Test status matches and play a similar home-and-away format as the top group. If the bottom group were first-class matches only, the interest would dwindle, and their fans deserve better than that, with the money and prestige with the top six teams.
The incentive to get there would be great.
No matter what the ICC do, if they do anything in the future, there will be positives and negatives. A negative may be missing out on Sri Lanka defeating South Africa as they did in 2018. Or England going to Still Lanka and winning for the first time in 17 years. But the positives could outweigh the negatives.
If India had ten series spread over two years and a half years against South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia and their old foe Pakistan (played in England on neutral territory for both) home-and-away, with an aim to finish top two to play in a three-Test match final, it would be thrilling Test cricket.
Also, it would help remove the ‘improve your averages Test’ cricket. Let’s not forget Adam Voges averages 542.00 against the West Indies. Without wanting to be disrespectful to Voges, it’s hardly what you would consider a test of a cricketer.
The aim of cricket administrators should be to make sure all cricket remains competitive and meaningful. The decline of interest in one day cricket has been the result of matches and tournaments that have meant little to players and fans.
Virat Kohli has almost single-handedly kept that format alive and has done a far better job of keeping a dying format relevant than the administrators have.
Similarly, the introduction of day-night Test cricket and pink balls have been done to keep Test cricket relevant and important throughout the cricketing world. However the sport must always look to improve and get better, and a championship to find the most consistent and best-playing nation over a couple of years can help do that.
A Test championship has been spoken about for some time. It’s time it happened.