CAPE TOWN – Proteas captain Faf du Plessis believes the introduction of a genuine Test Match Championship and One-Day International league is “a good idea”.
This comes after the ICC Board agreed in principle at the governing body’s meeting in Auckland yesterday to forge ahead with the new competitions.
ICC Chief Executive Dave Richardson told reporters that while details still needed to be worked out, the Test championship would commence after the 50-overs World Cup in 2019 and culminate with a final in mid-2021.
Nine of the 12 Test-approved countries - Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland will initially be excluded - will play three home and three away series over the two years that count towards the championship.
The series can be a minimum of two matches and maximum of five, with all Tests to be five days in length. The top-two teams in April 2021 will meet in the final two months later.
“It’s a good idea. Most of the time you are playing against really high quality Test teams. This is pretty new to us. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Ireland, who are new, we haven’t played enough cricket against those guys to judge them,” Du Plessis said.
“Bangladesh is very new to travelling around the world and playing different conditions. From a strength-versus-strength point of view, yes and for the smaller nations, this is important for them to grow and see where they are with their cricket and where they can compete.”
Richardson added that a 13-team ODI league would be introduced from 2021 to determine which teams qualify for the World Cup in India two years later.
“The approval of both leagues is the conclusion of two years of work from the members who have explored options to bring context to every game,” the former Proteas wicket-keeper said.
“The ICC Board decision means we can now go and finalise a playing schedule ... as well as the points system, hosting arrangements and competition terms.”
South Africa’s proposed four-day Test against Zimbabwe set for Boxing Day in Port Elizabeth, which will also be the inaugural day-night Test in this country, was also approved by the ICC.
Richardson said while the concept was still in the trial phase it should help Afghanistan and Ireland, who were granted Test status in June, get up to speed faster. Ireland will play their first Test against Pakistan next May.
“Throughout the discussions about the future of Test cricket it became clear whilst context is crucial we must also consider alternatives and trial initiatives that may support the future viability of Test cricket,” Richardson said.
“The trial is exactly that, a trial, just in the same way day-night Tests and technology have been trialled.
“Four-day Tests will provide new Test-playing countries with more opportunities to play the longer version of the game against more experienced opponents, which, in turn, will help them to hone their skills and close the gap with the top nine teams.”
New Proteas coach Ottis Gibson was interested to see how the championship would work, especially in relation to the advantage home teams have enjoyed in recent times.
“It’s an interesting one because with every team there’s a home advantage, so if you ask Australia about the Test league just after they’ve played in Bangladesh, where they lost, their opinion will be very different to when they were playing Bangladesh in Australia.
“It’s an interesting one and I don’t really have an opinion on it. I’m just interested to see how it all unfolds. Bangladesh might not travel well but when they’re at home, they’re a different team,” Gibson said.