Getting over lip service, a two-tier structure is an absolute must for Test Cricket
Test Cricket and Indian Premier League are as different as chalk and cheese. There are many voices who have blamed the IPL for the slow death of Test Cricket. Well, this can be debated at a different time. Why I have evoked comparisons with the Indian Premier League is because of the relevance of the league.
For two months every year, the IPL is played with an unknown script, there are numerous connotations attached to it and the entire tournament is like a box-office event. Factor in this season, Royal Challengers were the most watched side for a reason. They were almost knocked out and then the surge began. They bulldozed teams along the way and along the way picked up quite a storm as well as interests. This is an example of what happens when teams are pushed to a corner and they discover an interest and a motive to turn their season around.
Compare this to the ongoing to the ongoing Test series between England and Sri Lanka. It is hard to find a relevance to the series. England are 2-0 up in the series, and if they whitewash Sri Lanka they will move up the ranking. So what? How will it help Test Cricket?
It has become quite a fashion system these days for people to say claim that they love Test Cricket, for it is the 'purest form' of cricket. The numbers have a different story to say. They are on a constant decline and all the narrative that Test Cricket is on a decline has become like a redundant noise. Nothing has been done so far, will anything be done?
Well, if the International Cricket Council is to be believed there seems to be a solution on the cards. Dave Richardson, the CEO has hinted at adopting a two-league system. There will be a relegation and promotion system in place, there will be a context and there will be reasons to play for the teams. Well, and then there will be groups and the ranking system will then assume some significance.
There will then be home and away series between teams, there will be points allocated and perhaps then the dominance of the home team might dwindle a bit. Well, this is another major concern confronting Test Cricket currently. According to Richardson, there will be two groups, 7 teams in the top half of the table and then 5 teams in the other group. And, surprisingly Cricket will grow, Afghanistan will actually get to play a Test Match, and they will have a certain target in mind, which is to qualify and be promoted to the top half of the table.
The leader of the league after all the matches are done will the eventual Test Champions. Sounds like a perfect scenario!
There are so many positives, the question, which dawns is why was this not tried yet, and why is still this a proposal. The answer lies in the question, there is the small matter of the ICC, or should I say the 'Big Three'. How will they react to the proposal and how the revenues will be affected? After all, was it not money that brought them all together in the first place. What happens if one the teams are in the seventh position and are on the verge of being relegated? These are fundamental questions that have no answers currently.
Every nation in the team wants to either tour India or schedule an India tour. Hence, how the financials will be altered if the teams from the other group are deprived of an Indian tour? Another critical cog that needs to be identified and dealt with.
Well, any change is a knee-jerk reaction, but this change in cricket is long overdue. It may have few loopholes, but then it is a definite a move in the positive reaction. More teams will be embraced and Test Cricket will get new entrants. We should remember that there were a number of reservations when the idea of day and night Test Matches was mooted initially. How the scenario has changed, countries are willing to lap it up.
Finally then after a long time, there will be some implementation to all the lip service about Test Cricket dying.
I return to the comparisons with the IPL. There will be a story, there will be a theatre and then there will be context. Who does not like a good story, who does not like to be a part of it?
Hope is here, light at the end of the tunnel surely!