We consider the implementation Relegation & Promotion in our third segment of Make Test Cricket Great Again & Restore The Soul of this Wonderful Sport.
Earlier, we had discussed (1) how to reduce the imbalance due to the Big 3 in context of the World Test Championship, (2) detailed analysis of how the WTC Points Table can be fixed, and (3) innovative suggestions provided by our friends on Twitter.
Today we tackle one of the more popular suggestions on how to make test cricket more competitive and provide a detailed recommendation in our proposal.
Ramiz Raza received backlash post the Zimbabwe Vs Pakistan Test series for implying in his YouTube channel that these one-sided series are a joke and will drive cricket fans away to other sports. What is the point of having Test matches where matches finish in 2 or 3 days and the team does not seem to improve?
Despite the social media outrage, he definitely has a point.
Zimbabwe have managed only 14 victories & 28 draws in their 29-year Test history. Similarly, Bangladesh has only won 14 out of their 123 Tests in the past 21-years, and most of them at home. One can argue that India (20 years) & New Zealand (25 years) also took some time to get going, but that was an era between 1930 & 1955.
The entire face of sport has changed since then.
Why Does It Matter?
The World Test Championship was created to encourage context in Test cricket.
However, it has had the opposite impact. Since the finalists, India and New Zealand, were decided before the end of the WTC cycle, the Sri Lanka-Bangladesh and Pakistan-Zimbabwe series had low viewership and zero context.
There was also criticism that while New Zealand breezed through their home games and qualified for the finals, England were penalized even though they achieved success in traditionally tough touring spots like South Africa and Sri Lanka.
It is clear that big nations will continue to invest & prosper in Test cricket, so Test cricket will remain alive. It is the lower-ranked teams, who will languish at the bottom.
According to the current ICC Test rankings*, there is a substantial gap between sides:
- Top 4: India (121), New Zealand (120), England (109), Australia (108)
- Mid 4: Pakistan (94), West Indies (84), South Africa (80), Sri Lanka (78)
- Bottom 4: Bangladesh (46), Zimbabwe (35), Afghanistan (-), Ireland (-)
Recently, the ICC also suggested temporary Test status to other Associate nations like Scotland & Netherlands, which is a step in the right direction.
Finally, we need to be mindful of some intricacies before our proposal. Unlike the standardized ODI Super League (3 ODIs per series), the Ashes & Border-Gavaskar Trophy (BGT) rivalry games will continue. On the other hand, a 2-Test series should be abandoned altogether.
*Rankings as of 13 May, 2021
We propose a two-tiered system, Bracket A (ranked #1-6) & Bracket B (#7-12) competing in the World Test Championship, with an additional Bracket C (non-Test playing nations) to encourage Associate nations.
- 2-year cycle, 5 series total
- Top 2 of Bracket B promoted to Bracket A
- Bottom 2 of Bracket A relegated to Bracket B
- Each team plays ALL the other teams in the bracket for an equal amount of games per team
- From the 5 series, it should have a division of 2-2-1 (Home/Away/Neutral venue)
- If teams are in the same bracket for 2 consecutive cycles, they will alternate between home and away
Since the Big 3 nations play 4-5 Tests among themselves and the lower-ranked teams lose money while hosting a Test series, we will have two sets of proposals for the two brackets.
- 18 Tests total per team
- Three 3-match series, one 4-match Test series, one 5-match Test series
- Each series to include 1 Day-Night pink ball Test match per series
- Top 2 in Bracket A compete in a 3-match World Test Championship Grand Finale held in a neutral venue
*This depends if India and Pakistan agree to play each other because they will be in the same bracket if we go by current rankings.
- 15 Tests total
- Five 3-match series
- Top 2 of Bracket B compete in a Final match (neutral venue)
- Both finalists receive monetary award (incentive for lower-ranked teams)
- Replaces the Intercontinental Cup
- 4-Day matches, classified as First-Class Matches
- 1-3 matches per series depending on resources
- Exhibition games scheduled against Bracket B members
- Receive Test Status at the end of the cycle on a case-by-case basis
We demonstrate this proposal by utilizing the final status of the inaugural WTC Points Table. Here is how a potential Bracket A and Bracket B may look like if this proposal was implemented for the next iteration of the WTC:
|New Zealand (NZ)|
|West Indies (WI)|
|South Africa (SA)|
|Sri Lanka (SL)|
For Bracket A, here is how the scheduling may look like.
- Ind: 5 vs NZ, 4 vs Aus (BGT), 3 Vs Rest
- NZ: 5 vs Ind, 4 vs Pak, 3 Vs Rest
- Aus: 5 vs Eng (Ashes), 4 vs Ind (BGT), 3 Vs Rest
- Eng: 5 vs Aus (Ashes), 4 vs WI, 3 Vs Rest
- Pak: 5 vs WI, 4 vs NZ, 3 Vs Rest
- WI: 5 vs Pak, 4 vs Eng, 3 Vs Rest
For Bracket C, we can look back to the 8-team 2015-2017 ICC Intercontinental Cup for inspiration. By the current ODI ranking, Netherlands (13), Scotland (14), Oman (15), Nepal (16), UAE (17), Namibia (18), United States (19), & Papua New Guinea (20), and Hong Kong (played in the last Intercontinental Trophy) should be offered the choice of playing “temporary Test cricket.”
This can provide a pipeline & adequate preparation for Associate nations to be granted Test status in the future instead of just at random (like granting Bangladesh Full Status after defeating Pakistan in 1999 World Cup).
Potential Consequences – A New Cricket Calendar
If implemented, the tiered-Test system has the potential to alter cricket forever.
The World Test Championship, ODI Super League schedule, & a formalized T20 league calendar should be the basis of scheduling matches. It will be the end of ICC’s Future Tours Programme (FTP). Hence, all matches in all formats will become consequential. No more dead rubbers.
Another possible scenario is the solidification of the two-separate squads experiment. Due to the pandemic, Australia initially scheduled two separate teams for South Africa Tests (eventually cancelled) & New Zealand limited overs series. This has come to life with India sending two separate squads for England (Tests) & Sri Lanka (limited overs).
With the new cricket calendar, it is likely that a short limited overs tour will be scheduled (for ODI Super League) at the same time as a long 5-match Test series (for WTC).
Raza’s video was titled “Zimbabwe should not play test.”
Although the Zimbabwe-Pakistan series displayed a stark difference in class, we should not jump to conclusions too quickly. The India-England series also included 2-day Tests and India were all out for 36 not too long ago.
Zimbabwe should still play Tests. All Full Members should. Provide the lower ranked teams with context and additional funding to host Tests, and they will flourish.
Just give them some time.
What do you think? Yay or Nay to Relegation/Promotion & a 2-Tiered System? Or would you do it differently – maybe two brackets of 5 teams each, until Afghanistan/Ireland find their feet in Test cricket?
Copyright 5/29/2021 – Nitesh Mathur, Broken Cricket Dreams – firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Courtesy: International Cricket Council, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons