ICC moves to save the Test match

The ICC has agreed to examine hosting a world Test championship in an attempt to revive the game's popularity.

Dave Richardson, the acting chief executive officer of International Cricket Council.
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DUBAI // The ICC has agreed to examine the possibility of hosting a world Test championship in an attempt to increase the popularity of the longest form of the game and curb the growing influence of Twenty20 cricket. All ten Test nations will take part in the championship which will also involve football-style play-offs to decide the eventual winner as part of a wider campaign to revive the popularity of Test cricket.

The ICC board, which met in Dubai yesterday as part of the organisation's annual conference revealed that a detailed report is being prepared into a Test championship and that this will be sent to all member countries by the end of this year. If all ten major cricketing nations agree to it, which is highly likely, then the tournament could be underway by the end of 2010. Dave Richardson, the acting chief executive officer of the ICC said: "In the light of T20 taking off, the ICC needs to take a bold step to make sure that we protect international cricket.

"We are looking at proposals for a Test championship. "The next step will be to send to member countries the model that we have in mind for a World Test championship. "Everyone is very keen on this idea. Obviously T20 is becoming very popular, there's a lot of money in it and it's becoming very attractive to the players so we need to take robust steps to ensure that Test cricket remains the pinnacle."

The ICC also revealed that the UAE will be in a position to bid for international cricket events in the future, once top class cricket facilities in the country are completed. A 25,000-capacity cricket stadium is under construction in the Dubai Sports City while the ICC is also in the process of building its own academy in the city. Abu Dhabi already has its own cricket stadium with a capacity of 17,000.

Richardson said: "Once the facilities in Dubai are in place and with the Abu Dhabi cricket stadium already in existence, the UAE will be in an excellent position in the future to host ICC events. "We hope that it will emerge as the hub for cricket in the Middle East. The UAE will also be ideal for many international teams who want to come over for practice and get accustomed to the cricketing conditions in the sub-continent."

The ICC board, which is made up of the heads of the ten major cricket playing countries was unable to reach a decision on the future of Zimbabwe within the international game, despite spending more than four hours yesterday discussing the issue. It is still not clear whether the organisation will reach a decision at all, with members split over what action to take. According to informed sources, yesterday's board meeting was a heated affair with India firmly stating that it was opposed to any sanctions against Zimbabwe.

England, Australia and South Africa continue to insist that it must, at the very least, be suspended from world cricket because of the on-going political and humanitarian crisis engulfing the country. No vote was taken on the issue yesterday and the ICC board is to resume discussions on Zimbabwe first thing this (fri) morning. David Morgan, president-elect of the ICC said: "A considerable amount of time has been spent discussing the Zimbabwe issue. At this stage I cannot go into any details but we want to reach a conclusion."

The ICC also revealed that Sri Lanka has emerged as a possible replacement venue for the Champions Trophy, which is due to take place in Pakistan in September. A number of countries have expressed concerns about playing there because of the security situation while some Australian players have said that they will boycott the tournament. Richardson said that an ICC team was currently in Pakistan assessing the security situation and that it would report back to the organisation within ten days.

He added: "We will continue to monitor the situation in Pakistan with regard to security. We will not take any chances. Sri Lanka is our reserve country. We plan to get a final report on Pakistan and will take it one step at a time."