Time for Two Tiers?

Time to end this ludicrous charade

It’s eighteen months now since the ICC’s Dave Richardson mooted the idea of a two-tier Test series. The proposals would have seen teams of lesser standing such as Kenya and Ireland playing international Test cricket in a lower division to the more traditional Test-playing nations. And there are signs that England are starting to take the idea seriously.

‘It’s an important point that Test cricket should be played against teams that are at least competitive with each other’, the ICC’s Dave Richardson was quoted as saying in 2009, and those sentiments have been echoed in recent weeks by England fans frustrated at a lack of competitiveness during the current Ashes series. Prominent ECB officials are even saying, in private at least, that it may be time to give the idea serious consideration.

It seems that Australia’s abject performance on Boxing Day was the final straw for a public who are switching off from mismatched series in their droves. And spare a thought for the poor Australian fans leaving the MCG early on the most anticipated sporting day of the year: it’s hardly their fault that their Board wants to play regular series against a team that is by far their superior. Nobody wants to see that. Neither do fans want to see the sort of disgraceful scenes we saw at Perth last week, with a succession of England players giving their wickets away just to keep the series alive for the benefit of the TV paymasters. You cannot manufacture a close and exciting series simply by asking one team to pretend to be rubbish every once in a while.

The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, with Punter reportedly insisting that Stannah stairlifts be installed in all this year’s venues so he and Michael Hussey could access the dressing rooms. Meanwhile, the Australians’ search for a spinner goes on, with the Cavendish being forced to end speculation over Charles Ryder’s future by releasing a statement confirmed that he would be needed for work over Christmas. And their selectors are picking the side with all the subtlety and nous of a Sunday XI skipper reduced to ten on the morning of the game.

Clearly this situation cannot be allowed to continue, and for the future health of the game I propose a two-tier Test series with the following groups:

Senior Group

  • Bangladesh
  • England
  • India
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • West Indies

Development Group

  • Kenya
  • Ireland
  • Canada
  • Zimbabwe
  • Afghanistan
  • The Gambia
  • The Isle of Man
  • The Isle of Wight
  • The Isle of Lundy
  • The Isle of Dogs
  • Australia

This system would give Australia the opportunity to hone their massive superiority complex on more minor sides (with no disrespect to Lundy) without having to justify their oversized gobs by actually being any good. It is my fervent hope that, over a period of decades, Australia will once again become a competent force in world cricket. And in the meantime, the rest of us can watch England play some teams who actually look like they know what they’re doing.


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