One-sided contests and FTP diminish relevance of bilateral Test series

A surfeit of one-sided contests are affecting longest format, but due to fixation with ICC voting equations, BCCI seems to be unconcerned.

Published: 07th August 2017 07:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th August 2017 08:28 AM   |  A+A-

A surfeit of one-sided contests are affecting Test cricket. | AP file photo

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Eight days is all that India have taken to wrap up a second successive Test series win in Sri Lanka. Barring two sessions on the third day of the second Test, on Saturday, this has been a one-sided contest. It will take only one more series win, likely by the end of this year, against the same side for this Indian team to match the world record of nine straight series wins by Ricky Ponting’s all-conquering Australian side between 2005-08.

In the first place, this series was not even part of the original Future Tours Programme. But ever since member boards took the FTP out of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) control, it has become easy for them to line up a series whenever they want.

If at all the ICC is looking for the right time to formulate a better context for bilateral cricket, it should just take one look at the ongoing series in Sri Lanka. They can take a look at three more Tests in November-December between these two sides, to take a stock of where Test cricket is heading.

The ICC in 2016 had a glorious opportunity to redeem Test cricket. One of its ambitious but brave ideas — floated by chief executive Dave Richardson — was to divide Test teams into two groups with eight in the top division and four (including Afghanistan and Ireland) in another with promotion and relegation. By this, they thought, bilateral cricket would become more meaningful and FTP would be taken more seriously. But the idea was vehemently opposed by the then BCCI regime headed by Anurag Thakur.

Why? Because ICC voting equations affected the judgement of those in charge of BCCI, which is always looking to maximise profits. Though they reasoned that two divisions will see the likes of Bangladesh, West Indies and Sri Lanka playing only each other, why it opposed was there for everybody to see. The Big Three revenue share model was there to be protected, and with it gone now, it is important for the BCCI to portray itself as a global leader.

“Australia, England and South Africa were pushing for two divisions, but the moment India sided with the lower-ranked sides, it was never going to happen. Australia, England have not toured Zimbabwe for Tests for a long time, and what difference will two tiers make? Bangladesh have not toured Australia since 2003, so at the moment the FTP has no context. Until ICC makes changes, interest among spectators, especially in meaningless series, will only reduce,” an official in the know of things told Express.

Although the BCCI can say it is trying to protect the interest of others, scheduling matches that are not part of the original FTP needs a rethink. When the matter came up for discussion in ICC executive meeting last September, it didn’t even make it to the table as the world body withdrew the proposal due to the pressure from BCCI. Until BCCI realises it and wakes up, it is hard for any member to push for a change.

The two Tests have not attracted crowds. At Pallekele, it will be no different. You can understand what Sri Lanka fans might be thinking. Test cricket, like never before, needs some relevance. And it will only come with more purpose from administrators.

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