Test cricket: ICC has talks over two-tier structure

Michael Clarke and Graeme Smith
Michael Clarke and Graeme Smith

A two-tier Test system with promotion and relegation is to be discussed by the International Cricket Council.

The ICC has drafted a plan which would see greater control of world cricket given to the governing bodies of England, Australia and India.

A 21-page "position paper" sent to full members will be discussed at the ICC's executive board meeting on 28-29 January.

It is understood the future of Test cricket is a key issue on the agenda.

The main proposal is the formation of a four-man executive committee, on which the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Cricket Australia (CA) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would be guaranteed a place. The other position would be selected by the three boards annually.

The powers of that executive committee would supersede those of the ICC's executive board - a panel on which all the full-member nations sit to agree major decisions.

An ICC statement read: "The recommendations, which have been put together by a working group of ICC's Finance and Commercial Affairs Committee (F&CA), are to be discussed by the full F&CA and ICC Board when it meets in Dubai from 27-29 January.

"The ICC will only make a comment on this matter once the Board has had the opportunity to meet and properly consider the proposals."

None of the other seven full member nations have stated whether they would back a proposal, which would effectively reduce their power in the game.

They will discuss it at this month's meeting, along with the future of Test cricket and the possibility of a two-tier Test structure.

That system, which would involve promotion and relegation, could potentially allow the likes of associate countries such as Ireland the chance to play Test cricket.

Cricket Ireland has set a target date of 2020 to win approval for inclusion in Test cricket under the ICC's current specifications.

While associate nations may prosper from the chance to win promotion, part of the plan reportedly includes making England, Australia and India immune from relegation.

That would ensure the three most economically powerful nations would be guaranteed to play Test series against each other during each cycle, including the Ashes.

The ICC confirmed in June that England would host the inaugural World Test Championship in 2017, although the MCC World Cricket Committee recently voiced its fears that the ICC Champions Trophy could be revived at the expense of the Test Championship.

In India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand - and even to a certain extent Australia - crowds for Test matches are falling. Set against the growing popularity of Twenty20 cricket, particularly in India and Australia, there are concerns that its most traditional format could die out.

Other issues among the recommendations in the report are said to range from scrapping the future tours programme to remodelling how revenue is distributed among ICC members.

The decision of potential changes to the structure of cricket's governing body will be made solely by the ICC board, with further discussion to take place, if required, in its meetings in April, July and October.