After receiving much opposition for the two-tier league system, the ICC has proposed a new idea for Tests by implementing “Conferences”. The format, currently used in the US baseball leagues, can benefit the lower-ranked teams as it does not carry the prospect of elimination to a lower league.
Since the past two years, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been planning to implement the two-tier league system in Tests in order to make the longer format of the sport more entertaining. The two-tier league system had the top-six teams competing in bilateral series against each other. The two teams remaining at the bottom of the table by the end of the season will be eliminated to the lower league. This idea, adopted from the league system in football, received severe opposition from the likes of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India to which the ICC had no option but to shelve the idea.
Now, Conferences, rather than divisions, may be the answer to the ICC's ambitions to make Test cricket more fun to watch. The concept of a conference-based system was discussed in some detail at the recent ICC chief executives' committee (CEC) meeting in Cape Town.
The idea of the conference-based system is to split 12 Test-playing nations including the likes of Afghanistan or Ireland as alternately-ranked teams and group them in separate conferences/groups. This would then mean that all six teams in each conference would play each other in at least one series over two years, with the possibility of one or two 'crossover' series against teams from the other conference.
At the end of the competition, there will be a Test Championship playoff between the two conference winners. After the Championship match, the two groups would be reshuffled for the next edition, meaning all nations would play each other every six years.
According to the report published by ESPNCricinfo, this conference-based system will not affect iconic series such as The Ashes as a “crossover” series will be on the cards. But, the idea has not taken a concrete form as the ICC wishes to discuss the concept further to get the opinions of all of its member association. Nevertheless, the efforts the ICC is putting in to make the game more entertaining should be lauded.