ODI league an overdue step forward: CA chief
It won't solve all one-day ills, but James Sutherland believes the ICC's new 13-team structure is an important move for the format
13 June 2018, 09:22 PM AEST
The next iteration of the ICC's Future Tours Program that will dictate playing schedules of Test and ODI nations for the next four years will feature some overdue innovations but will not provide a "silver bullet" solution for the international game.
That's the view of Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland who for at least a decade has advocated the introduction of a 'league table' that brings global context to the roster of one-day internationals staged outside the quadrennial ICC World Cup.
And which, along with a newly minted Test Championship that ushers in a similar points system designed to generate additional incentives and interest for each match played during a defined qualifying period, is expected to be included in the next FTP due for release this week.
Sutherland recalls discussions not long after he assumed the top job at CA in 2001 with former head of the Australian Cricketers' Association Tim May, and then May's successor Paul Marsh, about the need to address the lack of meaning attached to the proliferation of ODI series and tournaments.
That was before the introduction of the T20 format that further eroded the appetite of fans for the 50-over game, and now the expected move by the ICC to stipulate the number, length and composition of bilateral ODI series that nations play in coming years is designed to help stem that decline.
Under the changes previously proposed to the game's governing body, every ODI will carry points that decide the composition of a league table that operates in the years between the ICC's showpiece World Cup.
With all nations drawn to play the same number of matches during that period, the team that accrues the most points will be crowned ODI champions while placings on the table will be used to decide qualification for ICC events.
It will also, as Sutherland has already flagged, effectively end the scheduling of bilateral ODI series of more than three matches with the plans for a championship of Test cricket (culminating in a biennial 'grand final' between the two top-ranked Test nations) likely to enliven the appeal of formats being swamped by the growth of T20 franchise competitions around the world.
"I do really believe that international cricket has been crying out for a clearer structure and a much-improved context around matches that are played on a bilateral basis," Sutherland told cricket.com.au shortly after announcing his plans to stand down as Chief Executive within 12 months.
"The thought that each match has meaning and context for some sort of championship or league ladder is a really good step forward.
"It makes sense that these games have got to hold more interest for the fans of the two teams that are participating, and for fans more broadly because every match will count for points towards that table so hopefully that will increase third-party interest across the world.
"So if Sri Lanka play Australia in a series, people will understand the context of that series for the ladder and it will mean that positions on that ladder will change according to the outcomes, so it then has more context for the other teams and their fans.
"Which then effectively grows the game, and I don't think you need to be Einstein to work out that's going to have a positive impact.
"It's certainly not a silver-bullet solution, and I've never, ever thought it to be that, but I believe it's something that will add to international cricket."
The ICC has already indicated that the Test Championship concept will be launched when Australia begins its 2019 Ashes series in the UK, with the final expected to be fought out two years hence.
Discussions on the adoption of an equitable points system for Test matches, given that individual nations will maintain some autonomy on the length of Test series they host, will continue at the ICC's Chief Executive Committee meeting to be held in Dublin later this month.
While the ICC's scheduling matrix is expected to see the governing body take a stronger role in mandating who plays who and where in order to address the fluidity in previous FTPs, the final decision on the format and location within that structure will remain the jurisdiction of competing teams.
Under those protocols, CA recently announced that next summer's four-Test series against India won't include a day-night Test as had been hoped because the Board of Control for Cricket in India rejected the concept due to their players' lack of experience against a pink ball under floodlights.
Sutherland claimed that while recent discussions at ICC committee level had examined the need for all nations to ensure visiting teams are treated in fair and generous fashion, he felt there was scope for a host nation to decree playing conditions and venues without bilateral agreement.
And suggested there might be circumstances in which it was appropriate for the ICC to intervene if the touring team took issue with any of those decisions.
"Given the economic model that exists within international cricket, the home team that gets to exploit the revenues and attract the crowds and service their fans should be able choose where they want to play, when they want to play and – within reason – the conditions they want to play in," he said.
"That's all fair and reasonable.
"I think there's probably examples in recent times where every nation, in one way or another, has been guilty of perhaps not treating the visiting team with the full courtesies they deserve.
"Hopefully it will be something that everyone adopts the right philosophies towards in the new Test championship from July next year.
"The ICC have already changed some of the reporting guidelines and measuring systems around Test cricket and the preparation of Test pitches, and I think that's a good thing.
"But ideally, I believe there also needs to be a situation where they can, and do step in (regarding bilateral scheduling) if need be."
The details of Australia's Test and ODI playing commitments from 2019 until 2023 won't be known until the FTP is released by the ICC, but Sutherland has indicated CA's preparedness to engage in fixtures against the game's two newest Test nations, Afghanistan and Ireland.
CA was criticised earlier this year when a proposed out-of-season Test series against Bangladesh was deferred by mutual agreement by both administrations, with a view that greater benefit might be derived by providing Bangladesh with short-form playing opportunities prior to the ICC's World T20 event in Australia in 2020.
The England and Wales Cricket Board recently announced they will host Ireland in an historic four-day Test match at Lord's prior to the start of next year's Ashes campaign.
Sutherland said it was unlikely that Australia would follow suit and schedule a four-day Test match in the foreseeable future as CA retained the view that the elite format remained a five-day contest, but they were committed to programming matches against the emerging Test nations.
"As a rule, when we go to England, we try to always set aside a match in Scotland or Ireland," Sutherland said, noting that the proximity of the ICC World Cup to the start of next year's Ashes series precluded the scheduling of an additional Test in the UK in 2019.
"I think we've been great supporters of those countries, emerging countries, and we 've played one-day games in recent times against Scotland, Ireland and Afghanistan.
"As far as Bangladesh is concerned, it hasn't worked out for us to host them here this time around but we are actively exploring other opportunities for us to host them here."
Qantas tours of England and Zimbabwe
ODI squad: Tim Paine (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Travis Head, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye
England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (injured), David Willey, Chris Woakes (injured), Mark Wood
T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Jack Wildermuth
Qantas Tour of England
June 13: First ODI, The Oval (D/N)
June 16: Second ODI, Cardiff
June 19: Third ODI, Trent Bridge (D/N)
June 21: Fourth ODI, Durham (D/N)
June 24: Fifth ODI, Old Trafford
June 27: Only T20, Edgbaston (D/N)
Qantas T20I tri-series Tour of Zimbabwe
July 1: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan
July 2: Pakistan vs Australia
July 3: Australia vs Zimbabwe
July 4: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan
July 5: Pakistan vs Australia
July 6: Australia vs Zimbabwe
July 8: Final