How does the ICC test challenge work

Ireland welcome "chance" offered by ICC's two-division test plan

• Ireland's Cricket Warren Deutrom says plan would elevate the game's profile
• Promotion and relegation is "meritocratic and driven by context"


Ireland's Cricket Chief Executive, Warren Deutrom, has welcomed the International Cricket Council's proposals to create two divisions in test cricket. He described the idea as something "we've been pushing forever since I've got Irish cricket to get involved" and said that "cricket could push even further into the mainstream of the Irish sport".

The ICC is a two-divisional structure in test cricket that would explore seven teams joined in Division 1 and five countries, including two joining nations in League Two. Ireland stand high on the Intercontinental Cup so they will be ideally positioned to have tests elevated if the proposals are agreed.

"The kind of structure that is performance-based and driven by context, with something hanging on every game - be it the prospect of promotion or relegation - certainly what fans around the world want to see," said Deutrom. "It's an opportunity for true performance to be accountable. What happens on and off the pitch will drive the success of any team."

Deutrom also believes that the proposed new structure, linked to promotion and relegation every two years, would make bilateral cricket more profitable around the world. "Stronger frame helps to get more interest to improve performance and therefore makes the game more attractive and economically attractive to drive."

In 2014 the ICC introduced a way for a new site to gain test status. The winners of the ongoing Intercontinental Cup, the premier competition for associated countries, are expected to play the test team ranked below over four games in 2018. Should the business partner win, they would get test status for four years.

However, the new proposals seem to be far preferable. Two new nations can and will play Tests provided that some teams with the certainty about lights would be missing today: Zimbabwe have only played 14 Tests since 2005.

"I think the proposal is excellent. It removes the testing challenge that I've always had my doubts about," said Deutrom. "If we were to lose the series - or even draw, nobody knows - then it might be a justification for claiming that we are not ready if we have never played internationally for more than five days, except for the Intercontinental Cup final. "

Under the new structure being discussed, the five teams in League Two Test cricket would play each other either at home or away over a two-year cycle. This would ensure 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, trading partners and the government and ultimately help to prevent players from leaving for England in the future. Cricket Ireland surveys its squad test Cricket is the main draw players choose to play for England, although it also offers enormous financial benefits.

While it would be the longest format to admit marketing challenges, Deutrom said "Irish people grew up on test cricket" because it was historically available on free-to-air TV in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. "I think we'd get 10,000 people a day on a five-day game over three games? No, I don't. We'd have to be smart about where and when we plan the games in the same way New Zealand are."

In addition to the proposed two-division structure in tests, the ICC is also examining two groups of six for the leading 12 nations in a day-long international cricket, with three groups of four creating another option. The groups are drawn by seeding, and home and away games would form the basis for World Cup qualification.

While Ireland have attempted to gain full membership status in the ICC since 2009, there remains no indication of how they could do that. Instead of adding 10 full members, high-ranking figures in the ICC hope that ICC payments will be more performance-related, undermining the benefits of membership.

Senior officials from the ICC are also exploring whether to team up for more in future world T20 events. The prospect of moving to a more comprehensive 20-team event has already been mentioned. But some employee representatives are concerned that the ICC has not moved decisively enough to apply to the Olympics before next year's date for inclusion in the 2024 Games.

"It sounds to me like you're banking on the Olympics almost not happening," said a senior associate hand. "The development of cricket will be hurt because countries are unable to unlock the extra cash the government normally gives to Olympic sports."

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