ICC confirms Test, ODI leagues close to being finalised
The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Chief Executives Committee have worked out a viable schedule to accommodate a Test and ODI league between the members, according to a report in ESPNCricinfo.
The proposal, known by the name Option C, includes a rolling Test league to be introduced in 2019. The league will see the top nine Test playing nations feature in 12 Test series over four years on a home-and-away basis. As things stand now, the league will not have any space for the new Test playing nations, Ireland and Afghanistan. Zimbabwe, who are currently the lowest-ranked Test playing nation, will also not feature in the league.
The proposal also includes an ODI league between the top 13 teams to be introduced from 2020, played over the next two years.
The proposal is now awaiting ratification by the ICC Board. However, with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) backing it, the chances of ratification of Option C are very high. Once approved by the Board, the ICC will formalise the proposal and release the specifics such as dates, terms and conditions. A more detailed schedule will have to be presented to the CEC for approval, though, in the ICC meetings in October.
It is likely that the Test league will begin immediately after the conclusion of the 2019 World Cup and will continue until the beginning of the 2023 World Cup. The winner will be decided by virtue of a play-off between the top two teams at the end of the cycle.
Each country will be allowed to a play a maximum of 12 Test series (minimum two matches per series) over that four-year cycle. One-half of the series will be at home while the other half will be away. During any given year, a team will play two home series but in the following year, they will play only one home series.
The notion of scheduling fewer but more meaningful Test series has decreased the total number of Test series a team plays in four years from the initially proposed 16 to 12. The member boards, however, will retain autonomy regarding who they play. The countries have the provision to play bilateral series outside the proposed league, but the windows are likely to be very limited, especially for marquee series such as the Ashes.
The glaring omission from the schedule is, without a doubt, India vs Pakistan, with no series being planned between the two countries in either league. Of course, the BCCI has already made it clear to the PCB that a bilateral series between the two countries even on neutral territory is not possible without the permission of the Indian federal government.
Although Ireland, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe will not feature in the Test league, they may organise Tests against each other or any of the nine other nations, provided there is a window. However, both the newly-promoted nations will play in the 13-team ODI league. The 13th team will be determined on the basis of a cut-off date to be specified by the ICC.
The ODI league will be condensed into two years instead of the initially proposed three. This effectively means that instead of 12, each team will play eight opponents. ICC CEO Dave Richardson conceded that they were still in the process of formulating a method to determine which eight teams each team will play so as to make it "as fair as possible".
According to the schedule, India will host South Africa and the West Indies and visit Australia and Zimbabwe in 2020-21. The following year, they will host England and Afghanistan and tour New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
It was also confirmed by the ICC that the Test Challenge Playoff series has been scrapped following the induction of Afghanistan and Ireland as full members.