CHENNAI: It is not just the venue for the T20 World Cup which hangs in the balance. As the International Cricket Council's board assembles virtually on Tuesday, the fate of the second cycle of the World Test Championship is also up for discussion. It is understood that not all boards are keen on continuing with the WTC in the current format, which was introduced in the Future Tours Programme in 2019 to add context to Test matches.
The members are also set to approve unanimously the expansion of the T20 World Cup from 16 teams to 20 beginning with the 2024 edition. The event will take place every two years from 2022. The 50-over World Cup is also set for expansion with members agreeing to revert back to the 14-team model which was in place till the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. But there will be a significant change in the model, with the reintroduction of the Super Six stage instead of the quarterfinals. It will ensure more matches involving the Big Three – India, Australia, and England, and also help the ICC in finding a balance in accommodating the Associate members.
With regards to the World Test Championship, there are discussions underway whether a change in format is required or to suspend it for two years. Suspending the WTC for two years will allow members to include more limited-overs matches to make up for the loss incurred during the pandemic. But, the BCCI still seems to be a big fan of the WTC, and there is an acknowledgement that it won't be easy to suspend it.
For the record, despite the pandemic affecting the WTC significantly, the players have liked the concept. But not all boards have been able to market the event as the current model doesn't ensure all the teams playing against each other. For example, Sri Lanka, Pakistan didn't get to play India, which would have helped them earn fortunes from broadcasters. Hence, there are calls to tweak the format.
Currently, a team plays three series at home and three away. The number of matches in each series varies from two, three, four, and five, which has also added to the complexity. Instead, a format that could see all teams play each other at least once is being explored. But that would mean the calendar will be cramped, which again remains a dispute.
“We have time till the WTC final to decide on the next cycle. To play all the members in a two-year cycle is impossible. So in that case it has to spill over to the next cycle (2023-31), which again won't be easy. Some want consistency in the number of Tests played in each series. Beyond that number, teams will be welcome to play additional Tests say in the case of Ashes or Border-Gavaskar Trophy. But there needs to be some consistency,” a source familiar with the development told this newspaper.
The other option in front of them is creating a two-division setup in the WTC. This will mean, at least two full members join the second division comprising Afghanistan, Ireland, and Zimbabwe, based on their ranking. If an agreement is not reached in the meeting on Tuesday, one expects clarity only at the July 18 annual meeting.