Ian Chappell: What's the ICC up to?

May 04, 2014, 07:45 IST | Ian Chappell

Sydney: As winter bears down on Australia and football news abounds, it was surprising to hear cricket - especially the Test version - flooding the news with reports of the national team regaining the number one ranking.

Australian players stand in the slips during Day Five of the third Test against South Africa at Cape Town on March 5, 2014. Pic/Getty Images
Australian players stand in the slips during Day Five of the third Test against South Africa at Cape Town on March 5, 2014. Pic/Getty Images  

It was even more surprising to hear captain Michael Clarke say; "I don't think I've had a more satisfying day or feeling in my career."

It's not that I don't think Clarke should be pleased with the achievement - on the contrary - but I would've thought the events of December 17 and March 5 would've brought more satisfaction.

Those were the dates when Australia regained the Ashes in Perth and then clinched the series against South Africa in Cape Town.

Surely winning on the field by defeating an opponent in a hard fought battle means more than a computer clicking over to confirm a ranking.

That thought led me to consider matters like a World Test Championship and other considerations for the longer game.

With the battle for number one in Test cricket now more evenly contested than when first the West Indies and then Australia completely dominated the game, it's the ideal time to introduce a World Test Championship.

The fact that such a tournament has languished through minimal television interest, is further condemnation of an administration that lacks both credibility and foresight.

No greater expert on the matter than media magnate Kerry Packer - who in the late seventies disrupted cricket to eventually gain the rights to televise Australian cricket - implored Rugby League officials; "Never let a media company run your sport."

If the ICC marketing men can't put together an attractive television package for a World Test championship, then they're either not trying or their selling credentials are worse than mine.

Instead of bickering over power and how the money will be split, it would be more productive if the ICC initiated a think-tank on Test cricket; preferably with most of the officials outside rather than inside the receptacle.

In addition to coming up with a feasible format for a World Test championship, ideas on how to revitalise the game could be kicked around. Ideas like how best to fast track day/night Tests and improve the competitiveness of the bottom half of the competition.

It's interesting to hear players of the calibre of Clarke and Kevin Pietersen say they're not sold on day/night Tests. During Packer's World Series Cricket days (more than 35 years ago), Super Tests were played at night.

I enjoyed playing those games - the time frame meant you basically avoided the heat of the day and was more conducive to large public attendance - but the one down side was the ball.

Finding the right colour and durability is the key to day/night Tests; that and ensuring you don't play matches at venues when there's likely to be a heavy dew.

On the matter of greater competitiveness, the first priority is to ensure the West Indies get going again. When playing well they are one of the top draw cards and Test cricket can't afford to have them languishing.

While I've been critical of both Bangladesh and Zimbabwe's Test status, it's not likely to change under the current regime.

So, in order to maintain interest in both countries and provide a wider scope for venues in the period between May and September, why not merge them to make a more competitive Test side?

And if the ICC really wants to create a pathway for the associate nations, then select a combined side from the stronger affiliates like Ireland, Netherlands and Afghanistan.

In addition to providing incentive and widening the player production pool this would also add venue options for Test cricket at a time of year when the choice is limited.

When Clarke was expressing reservations about day/night Tests, he cited the competitive nature of some recent matches.

That's indisputable but those exciting contests are far too infrequent and mainly played among the same few teams.

Test cricket has to be nurtured and fostered not just left to tread water, while the officials concentrate on short-term choices designed to fill the coffers.

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