Thursday, August 11, 2011

Two tiered test cricket?

Zimbabwe's return to test cricket was very impressive. Match was very competitive with both teams having good chance to win till 4th day. Two were almost evenly matched teams. Agreed that current England- India series is more one sided, but India had their chances and teams were more or less well matched on paper. Such matches are much more fun that one sided matches between top test teams and the cellar-dwellers like Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. With new football season about to begin this weekend, I wonder if similar structure could be applied to cricket as well to have more competitive matches and continued interest in test cricket. Two-tiered test cricket with promotion/ relegation could be the answer.

With 10 test teams, we can have 6 teams in top tier, viz., India, England, Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan. And the rest, i.e., West Indies, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, in 2nd tier. ICC is already proposing Test Championship. So why not have it among top 6 teams? And another tournament among second tier. (What prompted me to divide teams in these groups? I guess it's quite obvious. Zimbabwe are playing their next test against New Zealand, so this proves pedigree of the teams)

It would be run over 2 year period. During this period each team will play other team in test series (minimum 3 tests), either home or away. If one team plays at home against particular team, it plays away against same team in next tournament. Test series win would fetch 3 points and 1 for drawn series. Or we can have test wise scoring system as well. So at the end of 3 years the team with maximum points wins. No more complex calculations to decide world champion. After each tournament team at the bottom of the group relegates and team topping second tier would be promoted. So teams which are not good enough from top tier would automatically get relegated and teams like say New Zealand would get promoted.

So when would teams like New Zealand play against say India or Australia in that 2 year period? For that there could be knock-out tournament like FA Cup, which could run annually or biennially. 2 winners of knock-out matches in 2nd tier would join 6 teams in quarter finals. This would be based on random draws and so West Indies could be drawn against say England. This would be followed by Semis and Finals. Now this could be 2 or 3 test series. Effectively this gives even Bangladesh to compete and play with top teams in Semis and Finals provided they are good enough.

So in 2 year period, a test team would be playing 5 test series for the Championship and 2-3 test series for the Cup. Overall 7-8 test series in 2 year period, which is in sync with current schedules. But these series would be more competitive and should produce better cricket with everything to play for!

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