A bit more on the new (and in my opinion, better) ideas here: http://www.thecricketmonthly.com/story/ ... ts-in-2020
Some of the interesting bits from the article:
The structure the ICC now favours is for 12 competing nations - the ten current Test teams, plus Afghanistan and Ireland - to make up two groups of six. Teams would play a series against every nation in their conference, as well as some matches against teams from the other. Matches within this structure would count towards a league table, and at the end of a two-year period, the leading team from each conference would face the other in a playoff final.
Although this system would be less easy to understand than a simple two-division model, leagues with asymmetrical fixture lists exist in other sports, such as the National Football League (NFL) and Super Rugby, the southern hemisphere's club rugby competition. Should the conference system be scuppered, the ICC hopes to reach agreement on a more modest scheduling reform: mandating that all 12 Test nations play each other over a six-year cycle, but in as little as one Test either home or away. Even a solitary guaranteed Test every six years against Australia, England and India would be commercially significant for the poorest nations.
Here I feel the author is being myopic. Sure conference formats are not as easy to understand off the bat, but they are understood fairly well once you learn the structure. This is also true of cricket as a sport in general. That the sports administrators should be looking for the lowest common denominator in terms of sports structure rather than finding something that balances time and fairness seems to be the default mindset of many fans and commentators and it's a pity as that will not lead to the results they are looking for but quite possibly the opposite of what (at least some of them) were expecting.
In fact thinking about the conference structure further, what could really make it sell if the format was such that every team had to play ever other team within it's conference at home and away and had to play every other team in the other conference at least once (whether home or
away - that aspect being decided between the two boards involved).
So for example using the Conference system set out in my previous post we would see Australia play India, South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Afghanistan at home and away (10 series) and play Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland at least once each (6 series). Currently Australia (as with all other teams) are required to play a minimum of 18 test series (home and away against the other 9 teams) but this gets changed in practice due to Australia's disinclination to tour Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe's past self-suspension of test playing. Australia would be free to schedule extra series with teams in Conference A and Conference B.
Thus each team would still play the same minimum number of series (16) and the amount each team has to play at a minimum will be reduced (from 18 with 10 teams; would have been 22 series home and away with 12 teams) and there is the possibility for less commercially attractive series to be limited (for example New Zealand v West Indies, Zimbabwe v Australia in Australia, India v Ireland) as cross-conference match ups require only one series instead of home and away. This would mean that instead of NZ and WI playing each other home and away, they can agree to limit it to the one minimum series requirement and agree to play in which ever host nation would have better commercial prospects both with TV rights and gate receipts. A set up like India v Ireland can then limited to just an Indian tour of Ireland (likely after or before an Indian tour of England), which means India don't have to host Ireland for a potential loss, while Ireland get to host India for a profit and the Indian team gets to play a bit longer in the British Isles and acclimatize ahead of a match up with England (possibly giving for a more intense India-England series). Australia and England meanwhile would still be able to host the Ashes on a home and away basis, while other perpetual trophies can still be maintained (such as the Wisden Trophy and Warne-Muralidaran trophies) even if they aren't played as frequently and alternating as often.
While many Associates were dismayed by the collapse of the two-divisions plan, the ICC still intends to allow two new countries into Test cricket. This in itself constitutes a radical step. It would increase the number of Test nations by 20%, and would be the first time since the 1920s that more than one new Test country has been added in the same decade.
This is somewhat true, but once again underlines a widespread ignorance of the reasons why we haven't seen new test nations being churned out regularly; pretty much all the countries that had any interest in regular first-class cricket have already become full members. Countries which only have an interest in 50-over cricket domestically should not be playing test cricket. Period. So in the 1920s (when one-day cricket as an established format did not yet exist) you had a number of countries where multi-day cricket was being played regular but which were not yet full members. Hence the addition of West Indies, India and New Zealand. After that
the only really new members (in this case covers areas which had not previously been covered by an already existing board) were Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe (and even then it was only because of the veto system held by England and Australia why Zimbabwe were not accorded full membership in 1989 - in which case the 1980s would have seen more than one new test nation added). Pakistan and Bangladesh were a part of India in the 1920 and Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan from the 1950s.
In essence when the ICC started in 1909 there were probably at best 11 countries which would have played test cricket: England (no separate Ireland or Scotland at the time in terms of cricket administration; they were domestic teams), Australia, South Africa, Rhodesia (maybe), West Indies, United States, Canada (maybe), India (no separate Pakistan or Bangladesh at the time), Ceylon, New Zealand, Argentina. By 1919 this would have dropped to 9 (all the previous ones minus the US and Canada where cricket declined markedly after the First World War; Ireland was separate by then but the new Irish state was going to have difficulty sustaining cricket because of the Gaelic Athletic Association's ban on players participating in popular Gaelic games if they played "foreign" games like cricket - this would have limited the player pool and the ban was not lifted until the 1970s). By the 1950s not much had changed except Pakistan now existed and was admitted. By the 1970s there was little chance of Rhodesia and South Africa being allowed into or reallowed into the ICC due to apartheid and Rhodesian white minority rule. Also by then Argentine cricket was most likely very amateur in an age when cricket was becoming professional. So by the 1970s the only really likely candidate was Sri Lanka (though maybe Argentina could have made a case) and Pakistan did try to campaign for them in 1975 (unsuccessfully of course).
By 1991 all
potential first-class playing countries were already full members with the exceptions of Bangladesh and possibly Argentina, Malaysia and Singapore (all three of the latter could have perhaps started playing regular domestic multi-day cricket). In 1991 both Scotland and Ireland were still domestic boards for the cricket structure in the British Isles (where you had the Test and County Cricket Board or TCCB, the National Cricket Association and the Cricket Council as predecessor bodies to the current England and Wales Cricket Board). Scotland only severed its connection with the TCCB and the other bodies in 1992 (hence until they did that they couldn't have been playing test cricket as it would mean the TCCB being responsible for two test level teams) and Ireland severed relations with those same bodies in 1992/1993. Scotland and Ireland were then admitted to the ICC in 1992 and 1993 respectively.
It is envisaged that Test status will be decoupled from Full Membership, so the new Test nations will not necessarily become Full Members of the ICC.
If this is what the leading associates now want then that's okay. They won't get a full seat at the table of course without full membership, but whatever they are happy with.
The ICC plans to grant indefinite Test status to two countries, probably from 2019.
This though is actually even more unequal than the current structure supposedly is. So now you have two nations playing tests, ODIs and T20Is but which are not full members and whose test status can be revoked while they maintain associate membership. Full members can be suspended but that's it. Once the suspension is lifted they resume all the normal trappings. The revocation of test status for associates would only be weakly correlated with membership suspension and could be done even if the associate isn't suspended.
I think it would be far better if Afghanistan and Ireland applied for full membership outright and opposed this aspect of the plan.
It is understood that the criteria used to determine the two new sides will not just be performance in the latest Intercontinental Cup but performances over the last three editions, and the quality of their domestic set-ups.
And this is why I think the new plan might be a bit more sustainable and why Ireland and Afghanistan should apply for full membership instead. This last bit is essentially the key aspect of the criteria to become a full member under current ICC rules, so it seems that won't be changed. Rather performance in the intercontinental cup is being added as an additional criterion. I think Afghanistan especially are probably very much in line to fulfilling all of the current criteria for full membership anyway.
And a related article which outlines some of problems with the old structure (though I disagree strongly with how they treat zimbabwe in the article): http://www.espncricinfo.com/blogs/conte ... 57324.html