ICC call summit to reduce Test routs

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The Independent Online

Agreement has yet to be finalised, but the International Cricket Council now recognise they must act soon, or face further justified allegations that Test cricket - which they like to see as the purest and most noble form of the game - is being enduringly damaged.

A so-called scheduling summit has been called for next month at the organisation's new headquarters in Dubai. Time is running out and the future prospect of television companies withdrawing their support and cash for the existing structure may at last concentrate minds.

Ehsan Mani, who is to continue for a third year as president of the ICC, said: "We're asking the countries to buy into something much different and after that we have to decide whether it will be a six-year programme or a longer one. I wouldn't like to guess the outcome. In my experience our boards tend to surprise us but I am certain we will move away from the present programme."

The change has been stalled because the leading countries want fewer games, less often against the ones at the bottom of the table, who in turn are well aware that their own financial interests lie in playing the top sides. Discussions are increasingly concentrating on the establishment of a circuit in which A teams play the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

The two Tests involving Bangladesh this summer were surprisingly well attended. But the cricketing public may not be so willing to part with their cash again, certainly not as soon as 2010, to watch ritual slaughter. Any notion of relegating sides, or of splitting Test cricket into two tiers, has been firmly quashed.

The ICC summit may also try to devise plans to give the minnows more one-day matches and Bangladesh will certainly adduce their win against Australia to promote their case. Mani said: "It is a complex issue and we have to try to suit everybody." That, he knows, will not be possible.

Agreement has at least been reached on reducing the squads for the Johnnie Walker Super Series to 20. The Rest of the World will play Australia in a Test and three one-day matches in Australia in October. Fourteen players make both squads, with 12 others in only one squad.

England have four representatives. Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison are in two squads, Harmison having been added for the shorter game after initial pools of 30 were announced. Michael Vaughan is in the Test team and, if he asserts himself in the Ashes, seems in pole position to be the World XI captain.

The surprise, perhaps, is the presence of Kevin Pietersen in the one-day 20. It will perversely provoke increased calls for his elevation to Test status. Andrew Strauss, Darren Gough and Marcus Trescothick have been dropped from the original 30.

Players in both squads:

A Flintoff, S J Harmison, R Dravid, V Sehwag, S R Tendulkar, B B McCullum, D L Vettori, Shoaib Akhtar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, J H Kallis, M Ntini, S M Pollock, M Muralitharan, B C Lara. Test squad only: M P Vaughan, A Kumble, Younis Khan, M V Boucher, G C Smith, S Chanderpaul. One-day squad only: K P Pietersen, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, H H Gibbs, K C Sangakkara, C H Gayle.