Debate rages on as two-tier cricket test plan shelved

The original plan was for the first tier to include the top seven sides, and the second tier to be made up of the three bottom sides, which are currently the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, along with the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan.

Players have warned that if nothing changes, it is likely that international cricket will continue to lose more of its best players to free agency and the T20 leagues. Some players have even commented on how they had raised their intensity and urgency in recent times, in case the changes were brought in.

Pros and cons

The argument against the changes is that they would lead to a greater imbalance between countries, potentially widening the gulf between the top and bottom sides. Without being able to play high ranked teams, it would be difficult for those in the bottom tier to improve their test cricket.

Some also believed that players in the bottom tier would become demotivated and move to the T20 circuit, if they are unable to play against the best opponents in the game.

On the flip side, the new system would have ensured that each Test series meant more than it currently does today, as teams strive to achieve the best possible result, so that they could improve their standing in the tier. This, in turn, would have brought more excitement into the sport, which is badly needed, as more and more of the younger generation of players focus on T20 cricket. The T20 format has been responsible for many young players buying cricket bats online, and taking up this fast-action version of the game.

The changes would have also opened up opportunities for Associates to play long-form cricket, whilst growing in competitiveness. Whilst Afghanistan and Ireland were due to be the first teams in the second tier, there would have been the chance for others to join the tier through a promotion and relegation system.

Of course, there was also the worry that the changes could see the rich become richer, while the poorer teams became poorer. Without top tier teams such as India, England and Australia playing the bottom ranked teams, there was a danger that those boards would suffer financially. This could have been resolved if a system of compensation to cover the loss of TV earnings had been set up, but there was never any suggestion that this would happen.

The news of the plans being scrapped will be welcomed in Bangladesh, since the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) had been openly against the proposal, as it would have deprived them of the opportunity to play major Test teams.

An uncertain future

With players in the game urging the ICC to adopt the changes, the decision to scrap the plan with seemingly no alternative will leave some with big decisions to make. The mass-exodus to T20 cricket that the ICC had been warned about now looks more likely than ever.

It's almost certain that the debate will continue over the next few months, with the next round of official ICC meetings set for October. Hopefully then, the structural future of the game will become clearer.
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