The long and short of it

Part two of two – Test match and T20 International cricket

In part one I discussed at length the (many) changes I’d make to the global structure of one-day cricket, but why stop there. What would I do to Twenty20 and Test matches?

Where does Twenty20 fit into this?

Certain parts of the cricket community believe that T20 is not for the international cricketing landscape and that it should be ‘restricted’ to the domestic/franchise space. I tend to disagree and believe that T20 has place at both international and domestic level, however I think parts of the current domestic T20 set up are detrimental to – all forms of – the international game as a whole, case in point being the IPL which locks out 1/6th of the entire year for a single tournament domestic, effectively killing off all international cricket during April and May each year, it is ridiculous – and don’t get me started on the T20 “Champions” League.

The ideal scenario would be to have international T20 follow the same model I’ve outlined for ODIs in my previous post. This would see an international T20 schedule in line with the ODI schedule, but with a two year stagger – i.e. there would be a World Cup (either ODI or T20) every two years. It would probably be a bit tricky to arrange and get the two schedules to play nice together, but I’m sure its not impossible. Same arrangements for relegation/promotion, tiers, and World Cup Finals would all work for T20 in the same manner as for ODIs.

In the end you’d have teams playing a series of six limited-overs matches against each other over the space of a couple of weeks, three ODIs and three T20s. Neat, simple. The only possible tweak I’d consider would be to cut it back to just two T20s, but even then only if the scheduling became an issue – three-match series just make more sense than their two-match counterparts.

The last piece of the puzzle – Test matches.

Step one. Forget about the World Test Championship, Tests just aren’t suited to a multiple team, multiple match format. I don’t see the need for the crowning of a “World Test Champion” every fours years, the current ICC rankings – while maybe a little flawed – are more than sufficient. The idea of a championship is nice, I just don’t see it working – yes, they’re already planning it for 2017, but they’ve also already postponed once before…

Step two. Get rid of pointless series/matches. I’d love to see a three-match minimum for series – at least between the top nations – the two-match series Australia played against South Africa was stupid on so many levels, and England and New Zealand are doing the same thing now. It’s not just because the “series” could end up drawn because a three, four or five match series could easily end that way as well – its just that a series of two matches seems silly. Maybe there is still a place for one/two match “series” when the top teams play the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, but even then I believe multiple matches against top teams would be more beneficial to their development.

Step three. Getting teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe playing against *all* the top teams more often will help them develop, and playing tests against everyone is nice, but the priority should be to protect the important contests. Quality test matches are better than one sided smashings – which, as the recent India/Australia series showed can happen often enough against the top flight team let alone when the opponents are mismatched.

The flip side of step three. Use the same scheduling idea as ODIs and T20s, everyone plays everyone else over a certain time period. I guess you could easily have teams playing a number of full ‘tours’ – comprising 3/4/5 Tests, 3 ODIs and 2/3 T20s – over the course of a four year cycle. As an example that would mean an Ashes series roughly every two years, is that too often? Maybe, I love the Ashes, but it’s possible to have too much of a good (or bad if you’re losing) thing. Maybe the Tests could run over a 6 year cycle to space things out a little – not sure how or if it would work logistically, but it would be interesting to explore.

Put all this together and overall, teams would play:

  • 12 x ODIs (4 x 3-match series per year, 2 home, 2 away) – plus one additional 3-match series every second year to make up the difference (assuming my maths is correct)
  • 12 x T20s (4 x 3-match series per year, 2 home, 2 away) – plus one additional 3-match series every second year to make up the difference – or – 8 x T20s if it was reduced to 2-match series.
  • Roughly a dozen Tests – depending on the number of matches in particular series – ideally aiming for at least 6 Tests both home and away each year
  • ODI and T20 four-year cycles would be staggered to allow for alternating World Cups to be held every two years – Tests maybe spread over a longer cycle (6 years?)
  • All ODIs and T20s count towards the qualification and seeding for the respective World Cup Finals
  • Both World Cups become World Cup Finals with a multiple-limitation or 3-match minim bracket format for shorter tournament and removal of superfluous group and super six rounds.
  • No World Test Championship, just retain the existing ICC Rankings system
  • Marquee Test series retained and protected. ie. The Ashes should always be 5 matches.
  • Oh, and screw the 2 month IPL window – if cricket boards wish to punch a hole in their domestic schedules to make way for T20 tournaments then so be it, but they can’t bring all international cricket to a halt.