Cricket Ireland’s chief executive, Warren Deutrom, has welcomed the International Cricket Council’s proposal to create two divisions in Test cricket. He described the idea as something “we have been pressing forever since I’ve become involved in Irish cricket”, and said that it could “propel cricket even into the mainstream of Irish sport.”
The ICC is exploring a two divisional structure in Test cricket, which would involve seven team in division one and five countries, including two associate nations in division two. Ireland are top of the Intercontinental Cup, leaving them ideally placed to be elevated to Tests if they proposals are agreed.
“The sort of structure, which is meritocratic and driven by context, with something hanging on every game – whether that is the prospect of promotion or relegation – is surely what fans around the world want to see,” Deutrom said. “It provides an opportunity for true performance accountability. What happens on and off the pitch will drive the success of every team.”
Deutrom is also convinced that the proposed new structure, which would involve promotion and relegation every two years, will make bilateral cricket more commercially viable throughout the world.
“Stronger context will help to drive more interest, improving performances and, therefore, making the game more attractive and commercially appealing.”
In 2014, the ICC introduced a pathway for a new side to gain Test status. The winner of the ongoing Intercontinental Cup, the first class competition for associate nations, is scheduled to play the bottom-ranked Test team over four matches in 2018. If an associate wins, they would gain Test status for four years.
However, the new proposals appear far preferable. Two new nations would be able to play Tests, and be provided with the certainty over fixtures that some teams today lack: Zimbabwe have played only 14 Tests since 2005.
“I think the proposal is excellent. It does away with the Test Challenge about which I’ve always had my doubts,” Deutrom said. “If we were to lose the series – or even draw, no one knows yet – it might then be a justification for saying we’re not ready when we’ve never played internationally over five days, other than the Intercontinental Cup final.”
Under the new structure being discussed, the five teams in division two of Test cricket would play each other either home or away over a two-year cycle. This would guarantee Ireland if they were among the sides, either eight or 12 Tests over a two year period.
The reforms could make Irish cricket more attractive to broadcasters, commercial partners and the governments, and ultimately help to prevent players leaving for England in the future. Cricket Ireland’s survey also found that Test cricket is the main pull in players who are opting to play for England, although it matters it also offers huge financial benefits