DUBAI, CMC – Fears West Indies would be relegated into a second tier of Test cricket were yesterday allayed when the former World champions were included in a nine-team Test League scheduled to begin in 2019.
Cricket’s world governing body, the ICC, approved the new structure at their meeting Auckland while also giving the nod to a 13-team One-day International league which is set to start in three years time. The Test league will comprise the top-nine ranked sides who will play six series in a two-year span – three home and three away.
Each series will range from a minimum of two Tests to five, and will result in World Test League Championship final.
“I would like to congratulate our members on reaching this agreement and putting the interests of the development of the game first. Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but this is the first time a genuine solution has been agreed on,” ICC chairman Shashank Manohar said.
West Indies, ranked number eight in the World, will be part of the ICC Test League.
“This means fans around the world can enjoy international cricket knowing every game counts and in the case of the ODI league, it counts towards qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup.”
Chief Executive David Richardson hailed the development as one which augured well for the future of international cricket.
“This is a significant point in time for ICC members and our collective desire to secure a vibrant future for international bilateral cricket,” he said.
“The approval of both leagues is the conclusion of two years of work from the members who have explored a whole range of options to bring context to every game.
“The ICC Board decision today means we can now go and finalise a playing schedule for the first edition as well as the points system, hosting arrangements and competition terms.” The nine nations comprising the Test league will be Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and West Indies.
With West Indies languishing eighth in the ICC rankings, there were fears the Caribbean side would be pushed into a second tier comprising the likes of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland.
And there were renewed calls for such a two-tier system following the Windies meek capitulation at Birmingham by an innings inside three days in the opening Test of the three-match series against England last August.
A proposed two-tier system, which would have comprised seven teams in the top tier and five in the bottom, was shelved by the ICC at a meeting last year September.
In such a scenario, West Indies would have found themselves plying their trade in the bottom tier.
Meanwhile, the ODI league will comprise the 12 full members and the winners of the current ICC World Cricket League Championship, and will serve as direct qualification for the 50-overs World Cup. Each team will play four home and four away three-match series, with all teams getting to play each other from the second cycle.