A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d

Part 1e. Preserving Marquee Tours

Having ended the last post proposing a test championship, now I will retract my unqualified support for same. The bulk of test nations recoil from a tiered system because of 1b - providing access to the highest level, for players, but also teams - where the possibility of relegation to a lower level will prevent them from engaging in tours to the places that pay well, and (ultimately) subsidise the game as we know it: India, Australia, England and South Africa.

Those big four teams are opposed for their own, equally selfish reasons. A proper tiered tournament - not the unholy compromise currently tabled - entails playing equal amounts of cricket in every nation, which will rarely be as profitable as a five game series between the big four. It would also, potentially, prevent those tours happening at all, should one member of the match-up be pushed down a level.

The idea that the Ashes might not happen for several years is anathema to most cricket fans in both countries, and down-right frightening to the administrators in each. The financial ramifications are too great to even risk it, which means, practically, that any test championship must find a way to preserve the marquee tours.

Leaving aside practicality, it is worthwhile for the previously cited reason, to preserve and enhance these historic rivalries, steeped as they are in history. The rivalries have their own, internal narratives that span decades, on which the new histories are built. To destroy, or diminish those would be a great loss to a sport that has made those histories such a central part of its character.

Fortunately, there is a relatively straight-forward way to preserve them, and that is to ensure that any format for a test championship has open windows for them to played. Logistically, that implies that a test championship could occupy no more than two seasons in four, allowing time for the long marquee tours on the traditional rolling four year cycle, and setting aside the periods currently devoted to so-called "meaningless" tours to the championship.

Those teams currently excluded from marquee tours have several options in this period. Certainly, where test cricket is unpopular, they may be tempted to ignore it completely, albeit at the expense of necessary practice. Alternatively, the aim should be to build new rivalries, between neighbours and close competitors. It would not be the end of the world if teams play less international cricket, but all these are problems for a different post.

Idle Summers 26th November, 2009 19:33:26   [#]