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Test is Best – but how do we keep it that way?

Way back when this Tractor was barely a petrol motor lawn mower, I took a Sports Leaders award in sixth form in a successful manoeuvre to dodge interminable General Studies. I can’t say much for the course as a whole, but I do remember the part where we had to plan tournaments.

It’s trickier than you think: a nice little Euros-style 24 teams fits nicely into…oh, nope, UEFA have managed to make the simplest group-knockout competition unfathomably complicated. But this only proves how much more difficult a Test championship would be to organise and maintain.

Andrew Strauss’ introduction of the Super Series format is pleasing to me mostly because it is an example of the ECB acting independently of the ICC. I’d like to see more of this until the ICC can be trusted to work for the global game and not just for the BCCI. I’m not sure it will cure the ailing Test cricket patient, but it has worked in the women’s Ashes so I’m happy to reserve judgement until after the summer, and to give it longer if needs be.

I’m less convinced by Michael Vaughan’s much-shouted about alternative of a two-tier Test championship with relegation and promotion being the key factors. How will Bangladesh cricket be served by playing only second division teams? They’ll be stuck at the bottom with none of the financial reward of touring (and hosting) England. Their players will lose out on developing their own games for want of playing against the best opponents. Their fans will become less interested as they can’t watch their own side and the world’s best players at the same time.

And what about England’s travelling supporters? The Addis Army tours as widely as possible and a two-tier system will halve the number of destinations. The cultural diversity offered by worldwide touring risks being reduced to a mono-cultural mush of the white world: Australia, South Africa, New Zealand with India thrown in for a bhaji and bindi adventure. And there languishing below would be the rest of the non-white cricketing world. Frankly, it risks looking deliberate.

It just doesn’t make sense to me.

And that’s before we look at how long the ‘season’ lasts. I’ve written before about the bizarre ICC ranking system and how its cycle operates, and I can only see a Test championship being even more confusing. I mean, play it over two years? Over a full four year cycle? And play 5 test series against each side? I’d like to see more long series but I cannot fathom how it could work.

And then what about scoring? Test cricket is far too complex a game to run a whole league based system on simple win-lose-draw points. If this league is going to happen, it needs a bonus points system based on Premiership Rugby’s: bonus points for centuries and 5-fers, perhaps; winning bonus points for innings, 200+ runs and 7 wickets+ victories; losing bonus points for coming within 50 runs or 2 wickets of the winning team.

I’d still prefer to scrap 50 over cricket altogether and let Tests and T20 do the talking. I’d like the four year touring cycle more protected. I want to be able to follow England all over the world. I never want to see another two-test series. I want home tests planned around bank holidays and school holidays.

Come on Mr Strauss, I’m not that hard to please so make it happen!


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