A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a b c 3 a b c

Part 3d. Year 1: Regional Test Championships

The creation of a world test championship satisfies the key goals of meaningful cricket and an elite competition without burdening the schedule. It leaves unresolved the problem of qualification and inclusiveness that is necessary to provide opportunities and goals for emerging nations. The proposed solution to both of these is a regional championship, played, as in football, two years prior to the world championship, also pitting the best six teams from each region against one another.

Unlike the world championship however, the appropriate format is not two groups of three. In that format, the regional heavy-weights would spend almost all summer thrashing minnows. To prevent that, and for logistical constraints imposed by the participants coinciding summers, the regional tournament is staged.

While regional variations are possible, and perhaps even desirable given the disparate levels of competitiveness each region contains, a standard format is here proposed, that can be completed across an 18 week international summer.

The final stage is a three team league, played over 12 weeks, with each team playing four tests at home and four away. Points are counted as described previously, and the top team is considered the regional champion. A final was considered but considered problematic. Firstly, the competition is already very long, potentially spilling over into the "off-season" in places where cricket is still playable. Secondly, a final like the inevitably dreary Shield final would be of no great benefit to the game, and in any case, would only be a single game in the competition (making most of the preceding 12 games meaningless). Thirdly, in such a small league, several group games will already have been decisive in determining the champion, and there is no need to devalue them in favour of another result.

As described previously each region will send either one or two teams to the world test championship, as well as one team to the playoffs. A plate competition needs to be held concurrently to determine places four through six.

The first stage is also a three team league, but with the competition split into two groups and ech side only playing two tests at home, and two away (one of each against each side). As before, points will determine the winner, with the group champions going into the final stage, and the two second placed sides going into the second, intermediate stage. This stage is designed to ensure that a random draw doesn't prevent a good side from making further progress. It is proposed as a two leg play-off, with the winner decided on aggregate margin.

There are numerous issues with the regional championships. Firstly, eventually the problem of playing against minnows has to be addressed. The regional approach minimizes mismatches, but does so at the expense of more games for those teams. You cannot have both, and there will inevitably be winners and losers in the process. Some team, somewhere, must be cut.

Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are the clear losers, being likely to lose their respective regional playoff games, and be relegated to playing the associates. It is possible to play, over the same time frame, a tournament with four in each group, but results in teams playing every week, with no rest (as described, a team will only play two weeks in three). The Northern regions lack of test teams makes that interesting. In the past 30 years it would almost never have been competitive, with either England or the West Indies dominating, and the northern associate merely making up the numbers. The rapid turnaround in the fortunes of the test teams in this group is sufficient reason to hope one of those associates can shortly match it with their counterparts, but who can say how long that might take (perhaps not long if the West Indies continue to rapidly close the gap in the wrong direction).

Nevertheless, necessary exclusions and too few games aside, the regional championship provides a fair balance between the competing objectives surrounding associate cricket, and the promise of reasonable competition at the pointy end of the tournament.

Part 3e. Year 0: Regional Associate Qualifiers

There is no graphic, or proposed format for this, as associate and affiliate cricket is too close to its infancy to be sure how this might develop. Only eight associates will play in the regional qualifiers however, two in the Southern and Asian regions, and four in the (much stronger) Northern region. Some sort of first class tournament is required to decide who qualifies - test sides, understandably, need not be included at this level.

It is likely, in the same vein as the UEFA Champions League qualifiers or FA Cup, that there might need to be several stages of competition, perhaps over several years prior to Year 0. Better sides would enter in the latter stages, culminating in a final tournament, or group competition that leads to the regional qualifiers. Every team that qualifies for the regional qualifiers would be entered in a division of the world test championship, making three tiers, and 18 teams in all.

Cricket - Manifesto 5th March, 2010 23:20:52   [#]