The World Test League, a Proposal

With the news of Kevin Pietersen’s retirement from international one-dayers, pundits, bloggers, journalists, and cricketers all joined in on the chorus that I have been singing since I started watching the sport:

Sing it with me now: There is too much bloody cricket.

And just to reinforce this fact, the news trickled out today that New Zealand would, more than likely, be missing four of its superstars in their test series against England next summer. Furthermore, we learned today that Jimmy Anderson would be rested for the third test against the West Indies – presumably so he is fit for the one-dayers that follow.

The outcry from the pundits is no more than I expected – just as the outcry before and after the one off twenty20 between South Africa and India was expected.

But despite all of this, nothing has changed. And to quote Douglas Adams: “And so the problem remained.”

And it is only going to get worse.

What cricket needs is a complete overhaul of how it schedules matches, how it balances formats, and who has all of the power: the franchise, the national boards, the sponsors, the ICC.

Tweaks here and there will not keep KP playing one-dayers for England, or keep Malinga playing tests for Sri Lanka – tweaks are nothing more than rotten shingles on a leaky roof. And we all known what the definition of insanity is. (In which case, the ICC is clearly out of its fucking mind – but’s a post for another day).

Cricket needs an entirely new roof. Nay. Cricket needs an entirely new house. Burn the old one down, walk away, start anew.

Let’s start with international cricket. Right now, the ten test nations play each other in a semi-regular, semi-random, cycle of tests, ODIs, and T20s. There are the Ashes, and Triangular ODI tournaments, and tours, and on and on, ad infitium. Ad nauseum.

My suggestion, and I have no idea how this will actually work, is to divide the ten teams into two divisions, based on the ICC test rankings. Over the course of each 12 month period, each team will play the four teams in its division in three tests, for a total of 12 tests per year. The winner of the top division is the World Test Champion. The last place finisher in the top division is regulated to the second division, whilst the winner of the second division is promoted to the first division.

What about the one-dayers? Well, between each test, there will be room for a single one-day match – either a T20 or an ODI, it will be up to the boards involved to decide. And that’s it. Oh, there will still be the World Cup every four years, and the T20 World Cup every two years, and the IPL and the Big Bash League, and all the other domestic competitions, but gone will be the countless, and meaningless, and interminable, international one day matches – which would of course free up scheduling room for aforementioned domestic competitions.

Now, of course, there are problems with all of this. It would be a scheduling nightmare, you would have to do away with traditional competitions like the Ashes, and the cricketing boards would have to find other ways to line their coffers other than countless one-dayers – and those are just three of the problems with what would be a monumental overhaul in the way cricket works.

But I think it could be done. And if not the above, then something else needs to happen. And I truly believe that something else will happen sooner rather than later, as more players defect from their international duties, and more test series are diluted of their talent due to domestic competitions like the IPL.

Well, I believe it will, but if it doesn’t, this might truly be what finally kills cricket in the end.

Your thoughts, dear reader?

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3 Responses to The World Test League, a Proposal

  1. Russ says:

    The problem with your proposal is money. Naturally.

    I don’t agree that there is too much cricket. If you want to watch every piece of high-level cricket being played, perhaps, but people generally follow their local team, and my local team (Australia, Melbourne BBL, Victoria) don’t play that many games in my town, by the standards of most sports, and only sporadically on tv. What cricket does have are too many trophies; there is no consistency or context, based as it is around the same 19thC touring teams that baseball and football abandoned in that same century.

    More context is a good idea. The first problem is scheduling. Most teams play in the southern hemispheric summer, so you need to schedule 15 weeks of games, plus breaks (5 weeks) and warmups (5 weeks), domestic T20 comps and ODI games/tournaments.

    But the biggest problem is money. Arguably we already have two tiers, the test teams and the top associates, without the relegation. The smaller test teams depend on playing India and England at home for most of their revenue, so they won’t abide a system that stops them doing so. Similarly, nor would England or Australia countenance losing their most profitable tour, the Ashes. Unless you solve the finance problem, the idea is a non-starter.

    My thoughts on what I think should happen have been extensively documented. I’d love comments if you have the time to wade through it. Essentially, I’d preserve the marquee tours for half the 4-year calendar cycle because they are valuable. The rest I’d collapse into a two-year tournament, with one year devoted to qualifying/regional championships (through which associate nations could advance), and the other to a 6 team-2 group tournament and 4-test home/away final with a decider. I’m not a fan of leagues, which aren’t as open to advancement from weak teams to the top tier as a tournament where a good run of play and some luck can produce something special. The money from the tournament would be shared through the ICC; the marquee tours would remain the property of the hosts; satisfying that financial element.

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  3. Matt says:

    Great post. Thanks for chiming in. I am going to read through your proposal right now.

    Two quick things: I agree the WTL is not feasible. But I think it is the kind of the thing the ICC needs to seriously look into. Cricket is a sport in desperate need of structure. I do tend to write as I go, and my posts are rarely well researched before I publish them. (Unlike your fantastic posts.)

    Secondly: I firmly believe that there is too much cricket. Maybe not for us for fans…but for the players? Definitely.

    Not only are fantastically entertaining cricketers like KP and Malinga retiring from formats because there is too much cricket, but all of the meaningless matches make the sport ripe for spot fixing.

    We might have to agree to disagree on that point.

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