ICC proposes a new Test League, Pakistan likely to oppose

The ICC has proposed a two-year Test league from August 2019 where the nine full members will be involved in six series of at least two Test matches each against six other opponents in a two-year cycle.

The PCB has informed the ICC that it would support the League provided the ICC and the BCCI assure the PCB of India playing Pakistan outside the League window.   -  AFP

In a fresh bid to lend context to bilateral series, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has proposed a two-year Test league starting August 2019 among the nine full members, barring Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan.

With the proposed league excluding a series between India and Pakistan, the Pakistan Cricket board (PCB) is understood to have demanded assurance from its Indian counterpart for bilateral series outside the League window. But Sportstar understands that even if other members – barring Pakistan – agree in principal to the League during the ICC's next board meeting in Auckland in October, the ICC will go ahead with an eight-team league.

A point system will be devised which will have equal weightage to series results as well as match outcomes. The fact that all series will have varied number of matches ranging between two and five will also be factored in so as to to avoid advantage to the big teams who play more matches. Based on the points, the top two teams are likely to face-off in a final in July 2021.

Considering the challenge of keeping Test cricket relevant, the ICC Cricket Committee, headed by former India captain and coach Anil Kumble, has been stressing on lending context to bilateral cricket and devising a Test championship. As a result, the ICC has devised a formula through which the top nine members will be involved in six series of at least two Test matches each against six other opponents in a two-year cycle.

A point system will be devised which will have equal weightage to series results as well as match outcomes. The fact that all series will have varied number of matches ranging between two and five will also be factored in so as to to avoid advantage to the big teams who play more matches. Based on the points, the top two teams are likely to face-off in a final in July 2021.

Ever since the ICC presented the proposal to its member boards at a meeting in Dubai in February this year, the world governing body is in close discussions with all the member boards. While most member boards have been positive about the proposal, the BCCI has preferred to keep its cards close to its chest. According to an ICC insider, the ICC and BCCI have been “constantly engaged” about the proposal that could radically change the international calendar.

Besides, the ICC has also devised a two-year 13-team ODI League which will also serve as a qualification tournament for the 2023 World Cup.

In order to help full members respect the commitment with their own broadcasters, the ICC has also created an eight-month window for the full members to be involved in bilateral series which will not be included in either the Test or the ODI Leagues.

Considering the political tension between India and Pakistan, the ICC has not included an India-Pakistan series as part of the Test League. The PCB, however, has informed the ICC that it would support the League provided the ICC and the BCCI assure the PCB of India playing Pakistan outside the League window, which would fetch PCB revenue through broadcasters.

According to the insider, such a threat will not halt the league even if Pakistan doesn't vote in favour of the proposal next month. “Considering the political situation, nobody can give assurance of an India-Pakistan series. If all the other members are on board and Pakistan persists with its threat, the ICC will have no other option but to go ahead with an eight-team League,” he said.

Meanwhile, an ICC delegation is understood to have met with the BCCI representatives and those from Star India, the official broadcaster, to discuss the feasibility of the proposal in separate meetings in Mumbai on Wednesday.

  Dugout videos