ICC propose three year championship as part of revamp

Nick Hoult
India have threatened to withdraw from the Champions Trophy in England if the changes go through - AP

A Test championship played over three years will be among the latest proposals put forward at an ICC meeting this week in an attempt to save the future of international cricket, which the players’ union has warned is facing its biggest threat from Twenty20 leagues.

The proposal will be discussed in Dubai on Monday and has the backing of England, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa but is hitting a wall of resistance from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Indian opposition is mainly centred around the reorganisation of the ICC’s financial structure, rather than the changes to international cricket. A new future tours programme that will provide a fixture list after 2019 is close to agreement but in India there is little support for the new revenue model. There have even been reports that India will threaten to pull out of June’s Champions Trophy in England if the changes go through, although this is not being taken seriously by officials at the moment.

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However, the ICC cannot afford more dithering, with the number of Twenty20 leagues on the rise. The closing date for votes to change the ECB’s constitution to allow the new tournament is Monday, with the result likely to be announced on Wednesday. The ECB will receive the mandate it is looking for with only two counties, Essex and Middlesex, likely to vote against the proposal.

“This is a crucial time for decision-making at the ICC,” Tony Irish, the chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, told Telegraph Sport

“A Test league and an ODI league between countries must be introduced. If that doesn’t happen, then international cricket, including Test cricket, will increasingly go backwards across the globe.”

English cricket has been somewhat isolated from the problems hitting Test cricket around the world. Test matches in England still attract healthy crowds but part of the reason why the ECB is pushing through its new Twenty20 plans is to protect the game from expected fall in broadcast revenue for international cricket.

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In England, the ECB pays players well to play Test cricket and almost all will describe it as their main ambition. But elsewhere around the world Test crowds are waning and, in some countries, players are prioritising Twenty20 leagues over international cricket because that is where they can earn more money.

This will become apparent in England this summer. AB De Villiers will not be playing Test cricket for South Africa against England but is currently playing a full IPL season for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. 

“The alternative cricket market of T20 leagues is growing and flourishing,” said Irish. “These leagues are good for the game but, with the exception of the cricket World Cup, Champions Trophy and World T20, which are all good events, international cricket is simply not keeping up.”

“For the whole game to flourish, the ICC must a find a way for international cricket and the leagues to co-exist in a coherent overall structure,” said Irish. “With the right collective will this is possible. The time for it is now.” 

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