One of cricket’s oldest traditions, the five-day Test, could be a thing of the past if the England and Wales Cricket Board has its way after it emerged yesterday that plans are afoot to introduce four-day Test matches.
The governing body confirmed on Wednesday the existence of a document, quoted by Cricinfo as containing plans for a streamlined County Championship and the inauguration of a Premier League-style Twenty20 competition – possibly by reducing the number of home Tests each summer.
The “Strategy Conversation Summary” also reportedly records interest at the ECB in pushing for four-day rather than five-day Tests and – by the time the next World Cup is held in this country in 2019 – one-day internationals lasting only 40 instead of 50 overs per side.
It is understood the document is part of a raft of literature being drafted and exhaustive consultation to be undertaken in preparation for a review of the structure of English cricket, overseen by the new ECB chief executive, Tom Harrison.
The timetable of change appears to dictate publication of the review by next year, and the beginning of implementation soon afterwards if appropriate.
An ECB spokesman said: “We are in the early stages of formulating a long-term strategy for the game in England and Wales, which we anticipate will take a year to complete. It will involve an extensive game-wide consultation and reflect the views of all our key stakeholders and major partners.”
There is a new administration at the ECB, with chairman Colin Graves set to begin a five-year tenure. His predecessor Giles Clarke is to become the ECB’s first president.
Graves has already spoken of his hope that an “English Premier League” can be accommodated in the summer – an intention which found immediate favour with former Test captains Kevin Pietersen and Michael Vaughan.
Graves said: “Cricket has some challenges ahead. The attendances at Tests are going down; Twenty20 hasn’t been as successful as we thought it would have been; the 50-over competition is certainly not drawing in the crowds.
“We need to look at the way the Championship is structured and how much cricket we play. We need to decongest the whole season ... and we’ve got to look at an English Premier League somewhere – how we can fit that into the calendar.”
Pietersen tweeted: “New @ECB-cricket chairman wants a T20 English franchise tournament! Brilliant! Forward thinking & brilliant for all players!” Vaughan also voiced his approval. “Great news for all Cricket fans in England,” he wrote.
Graves added: “At the end of five years, if people say ‘Colin Graves has changed English cricket for the good, and it’s more entertaining, better to watch’, and everybody’s happier with the game, then I’ll be delighted.”
It seems the process is already under way.