CA seeks to prioritise international cricket – ‘Three-Test series absolute minimum’

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CA will push for series in the World Test Championship (WTC) to be of a minimum of three matches each amid the increasing debate about the health of the format.

CA chief executive Nick Hockley admitted the situation with South Africa sending a severely weakened team to New Zealand had been a “wake-up call” and that Test cricket was operating in a “two-speed economy”, but he retained the belief there was a way to keep the game vibrant beyond the big three countries of Australia, England and India.

Under the current WTC regulations, a series has to be a minimum of only two matches. The ongoing South Africa vs India series may finish at 1-1, while West Indies will shortly play Australia in two games, although the ongoing contest against Pakistan has included three matches. The last series of at least three Tests not involving Australia, India or England was when Pakistan had toured South Africa in 2018-19.

“The preference is a minimum three-Test series,” Hockley told SEN. “So we’ll keep advocating and championing that. I do think there is work to be done on the FTP (Future Tours Programme) going forward, and it’s really [about] cementing the World Test Championship, [and] really advocating for three-Test series as an absolute minimum.

“And then as best as we possibly can, making sure that [when it comes to] domestic T20 competitions, we minimise the overlap for those countries where it is an important source of revenue, so that every country is prioritising international – and particularly Test – cricket.”

Australian cricket has felt the effect of the emergence of the SA20, which has brought much-needed revenue to the South African game, with an ODI series being cancelled last home season. But South Africa’s decision to send a second-string Test side to New Zealand has taken the debate to a new level. Cricket South Africa have insisted they remain committed to Test cricket, and that they are working to ensure future clashes to not emerge.

“It is a bit of a two-speed economy. The challenge is that we continue to support countries that are struggling in terms of Test cricket”

Nick Hockley

“That’s been a wake-up call for everyone,” Hockley said. “The role of T20 [in] bringing new kids and new people into the game can’t be underestimated. The belief is that the two can coexist. This was suboptimal scheduling.

“I think we in Australia – it’s very clear that throughout the whole period the Big Bash has been around – have always prioritised international cricket. But this has shone a light. And certainly, we’ll be working with the ICC through scheduling groups to make sure those types of clashes don’t manifest and really champion the fact that people need to be prioritising international cricket.”

Hockley was confident that nations outside of Australia, England and India were committed to the future of Test cricket, but acknowledged the financial side of the format brought challenges.

“The challenge is the economics,” he said. “There are parts of the world where the revenue from the T20, ODI and a Test are the same, yet the costs of putting on a Test are significantly higher.

“What we’ve seen over the last few years in Australia, what we’re seeing this summer, and what we saw in the UK over the English summer is that Test cricket is really thriving in certain countries. And in that sense, it is a bit of a two-speed economy. The challenge is that we continue to support those countries that are struggling a little bit more in terms of Test cricket.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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