The International Cricket Council launched the Test championship in October, with chief executive Dave Richardson saying it would ”preserve the primacy of Tests”.
The first competition is scheduled to be held in England and is due to be part of the ICC’s offering to broadcasters next year when it begins to formally negotiate an eight-year rights deal to run from 2016-2023.
But it is understood that initial talks with broadcasters have revealed little appetite for the competition, which is due to replace the Champions Trophy one-day tournament popular with television advertisers.
A full board meeting of the ICC will be held on January 27, when it could be decided to remove the championship from the formal packages offered to broadcasters if it is decided that proceeding with it might reduce the value of television rights.
The ICC is hoping to raise around $2 billion from its next television deal, a sum that will finance cricket around the world. But broadcasters have indicated two key problems with the Test championship.
First, there is no guarantee England and India will qualify for the tournament, which will be contested by the top four nations. If England loses 4-0 to Australia, it will drop to fourth in the ICC table, holding only a slender lead over Pakistan. Broadcasters do not want to risk financing a competition that could lack the two biggest nations in terms of generating advertising revenue. The qualifying phase for the competition began this year in May and ends in December 2016 and while it is unlikely that both England and India would miss out, broadcasters do not like uncertainty.
The second problem to be resolved is finding a satisfactory format for a championship, while the problem of deciding a winner if the final ends in a draw has not been resolved. One idea being mooted is for a six-day Test, although the uncertainty would create chaos in television schedules. A round-robin style format is another idea, with teams playing each other concurrently, which would guarantee most would go for a win. But this would lengthen the time it takes to play the competition.
The first Test championship was supposed to be held in England this year. The Champions Trophy was staged instead after broadcasters indicated they would demand a refund of around $80 million from their rights fee.
Another stumbling block to the championship is a continuing battle within the ICC over the sharing of income from global tournaments. At the moment, 75 per cent is split equally between the 10 full members and 25 per cent between associate nations such as Ireland and Afghanistan. But the Indian board is pushing for change that would see revenue shares reflecting the size of a nation’s contribution to the overall pot.
‘To preserve the primacy of Tests’, is what Dave Richardson said and that is exactly why this Championship should go ahead. Test cricket is well and truly alive. Lively pitches and contests between bat and ball are always watched. It’s only when flat decks are offered do talks of Test cricket dying come up. Yes, money is quite important but the ICC shouldn’t scrap the Test championship because it could reduce the amount earned from television contracts. The format might need to be worked out a little. But the top 4 should provide good entertainment.
This is where richer boards should step in. Even if India don’t qualify for the series, there’s not too much that stops the BCCI from helping out. Instead of working for only the benefit of Indian cricket and a few pockets, perhaps some philanthropy for the benefit of cricket itself. This holds true for the other boards as well. Again, this is our opinion. Perhaps it’s an idealistic one but shouldn’t we be striving for that?
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