In a bid to ensure the survival of Test cricket the ICC may introduce a system of promotion and relegation as early as 2019.
Speaking at a press conference to promote the 2017 Champions trophy, ICC Chief Executive David Richardson has outlined the need to reinvigorate Test cricket. The former South Africa wicket-keeper said: "There's a general realisation now that, if we're going to keep Test cricket going well into the future, we can't just say it's going to survive on its own,"
"Unless we can give some meaning to these series beyond the rankings and a trophy, then interest in Test cricket will continue to waver. The same applies if we allow uncompetitive Test cricket to take place too often."
Richardson is keen to add new Test playing nations while ensuring that Tests are contested on a strength versus strength basis, this represents great news for nations like Ireland, Nepal and Afghanistan but it could be ominous news for established sides like the West Indies, who could find themselves relegated to the fringes of Test cricket if they fail to improve their results in the longest form of the game. Richardson added on the survival of Test cricket: "If we really want Test cricket to survive, we can't have the number of Test teams diminishing. We have to create a proper competition structure which provides promotion and relegation and opportunities to get to the top."
There are many who feel bilateral series have lost their meaning, and this shows in dwindling crowds and tv viewership, something the ICC is keen to address as Richardson said: "A number of member countries are finding that they're not getting as much from their TV rights for bilateral cricket and they see the need to change and introduce some meaningful context."
In order for Test cricket to grow it needs to be competetive according to Richardson: "The beauty of leagues is that, in theory, you will have a more competitive competition and teams playing each other that are of a more equal standard."
Richardson has suggested a model that would see seven teams comprise the top test division, as the rankings stand that would see the West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe relegated to the second division, given the huge gap in rankings points between eighth place West Indies and seventh place Sri Lanka few could argue that this is unfair on the West Indies. Richardson commented on this model saying: "The feeling is that if you want to sustain interest in a competition, you probably can't go longer than two years with it, if you had a top division of seven teams, you'd have six tours – three home, three away – over a two-year period. It works well mathematically."
The ICC are looking to address the Test issue as soon as possible with Richardson keen to have the new system operational by 2019 pending discussions with broadcasters: "We could probably make it work in 2019 because hopefully whatever we implement will be better than the current arrangement. It's the sooner the better as far as we're concerned. We might need to have some negotiations with broadcasters who have deals in place, but they might be willing to change. This is a marvellous opportunity for the game."