CHENNAI: With momentum gaining in the International Cricket Council (ICC) to introduce two divisions in the World Test Championship (WTC) from 2023-25 cycle, all eyes are on which way the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will swing. Beginning with the annual conference scheduled for July 15, the ICC board will discuss the pros and cons of having two divisions and there is a strong indication that some of the member nations are in favour of it.
Recently, the ICC decided to continue with the WTC in the next Future Tours Programme (2023-31), but the format and the number of teams is yet to be agreed upon. At present, there are 12 teams with Test status, but only nine of the them feature in the WTC. In 2019, when the WTC first cycle was formalised, the ICC had plans to introduce Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland from the 2021-23 cycle. However, none of these teams find a place in the cycle that begins with India’s five-match Test series in England.
Since becoming a full member in 2018, Ireland has been facing a financial crisis and even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cricket Ireland had to cancel a Test and T20 series against Afghanistan. In the current circumstances, while the ICC board went with the logical decision to leave these teams out of the WTC cycle, they have to arrive at a decision about their future soon. At present, none of the full-members have offered to play more than a Test against these teams and there is a growing concern that unless these teams play more matches, they are never going to close to the gap.
Hence, a two-division format has been floated, which will see the top eight teams play in the First Division and five in the other with promotion and relegation based on their standings in the WTC points table. Such a move will have adverse effects on these countries finances as they won’t be able to get any revenue through broadcasters. This is why some of the member countries are banking on the BCCI to stall this two division format, like it did in 2016.