The men’s Future Tours Programme released by the International Cricket Council on Wednesday 20 June has provided the details on the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.
The tournament, instated with the aim of bringing more context to bilateral Test cricket, will be played from July 15 2019 to April 30 2021.
The nine top-ranked sides in the world will compete in the tournament, with each side playing six series on a home-and-away basis against mutually selected opponents in the two-year cycle.
The top two sides will then contest in the ICC World Test Championship final in June 2021.
The tournament will begin soon after the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, with the Ashes in England set to kickstart the event. “Together with other member countries we are confident that this will grow interest in the international game – and our team is very much looking forward to launching the World Test Championship with our 2019 Ashes series in England,” said James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia Chief Executive.
Even as the Ashes mark the tournament’s launch, the Windies are set to tour India, and New Zealand host Sri Lanka, both in July, making for a hectic start to the new tournament.
The final league game will be played in April 2021, with the Windies set to travel to Sri Lanka for a two-Test series.
The ICC has for long attempted to add context to bilateral cricket, and David Richardson, the chief executive, said the creation of the championship – along with a 13-team one-day international league that will act as a qualification pathway to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 – will do just that.
“The agreement of this FTP means we have clarity, certainty, and most importantly context around bilateral cricket over the next five years,” he said. “The World Test Championship will get underway next year with the ODI league kicking off in 2020 as part of the qualification towards the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023.
“Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but with the release of this FTP, our Members have found a genuine solution that gives fans around the world the chance to engage regularly with international cricket that has meaning and the possibility of a global title at the end.”
The World Test Championship was lauded by the heads of ICC member countries.
Tom Harrison, the Chief Executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, called it a step in the right direction. “As strong supporters of Test cricket, we particularly welcome the creation of the new World Test Championship,” he said. “It is a big step in the right direction and will help ensure Test cricket is more sustainable and competitive in the long-term – and help secure its unique place at the pinnacle of our international game.”
Cricket South Africa Chief Executive Thabang Moroe said it was “a win-win situation for all” and David White, the New Zealand Cricket boss, said: “By bringing more relevance and context into international cricket we can farewell what used to be known as neutral games, and introduce interest into every fixture, no matter which side is playing.”