ICC changes to boost Ashes allure: CA chief

Frequency of Ashes series won't be affected by ICC shake-up of existing Test structure, says Sutherland

The International Cricket Council's long-awaited reforms to Test cricket will not affect the frequency of Ashes series, with Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland insisting the new structure will only enhance the prestige of the game’s oldest rivalry.

The ICC Friday confirmed a nine-team Test Championship would be staged from 2019 as part of a push to add greater context and relevance to international cricket.

It's anticipated the 2019 Ashes in the United Kingdom could be the very first series played under the new structure.

The Test Championship will see nine of the 12 Test-playing nations (newcomers Ireland and Afghanistan, as well as Zimbabwe have been excluded) play six series – three at home, three away – over a two-year cycle, culminating in a Final.

The new arrangement will not disrupt the current rhythm of Ashes series being hosted by Australia and England on an alternate basis every four years.

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"I can't think of any way this denigrates or undermines the Ashes," Sutherland told reporters after returning from ICC meetings in Auckland this week. "It's all positive. 

"The Ashes will continue to be the biggest Test event that we play, but these matches will have even greater meaning than they do currently, if that's possible. 

"Looking at the draft schedule, it may well be that the first-ever series of this new Test championship is the Ashes series of 2019 in our winter."

A final is set to be held every two years beginning in 2021 but the ICC are yet to confirm whether the decider will be hosted by the top-placed team at the end of Championship period or at a neutral venue like Lord's, the game's traditional home that's been touted as a potential venue.

While the thought of a Test Championship Final in front of 100,000 fans at the MCG is enough to make Australian mouths water, the ICC have indicated the inaugural match will be played in June 2021, which all but rules out the possibility of it being played Down Under. 

"Bar none, every (ICC member team) likes the idea of hosting a Test championship (final) but whether that works logistically or not is another matter," Sutherland continued. 

"On an aggregate basis, there's less cricket that is played in the middle of the year than over our traditional summer period because so many countries share the same cricket season as us.

"You can write a script that would be pretty powerful to … imagine you'll have a Test Championship playoff match in 2021 at Lord's. 

"At that time of year in that particular country, people would come from everywhere to be a part of it. 

"Even if it's – let's say Australia and South Africa or India are playing – I don't think there would be any question about it being an absolute sell-out." 

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Sutherland, who has repeatedly called for greater context to be added to international cricket in recent years, also confirmed there would be significant prizemoney on offer for the team that prevails in the new Test Championship. 

"That detail is yet to be worked through, but absolutely there will be significant rewards associated with being a champion team and I think that's only appropriate," he said.

"There are already significant rewards for teams to win ICC events and it's only appropriate that, these being an extension of those ICC events, that there is similar sorts of prizemoney available. 

"You imagine every two years a Test championship playoff between the top two teams in the world. 

"It will be highly anticipated as an event but the prestige of winning that championship will be very significant."

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21