Cape Town – As recently as two months ago, Proteas Test
captain Graeme Smith was publicly enthusing about the intended World Test
In a chat with Sport24, he had said, after lamenting his No
1-ranked team’s relative lack of five-day opportunities: “It (the Championship)
at least seems a step in the right direction. Players are excited about it,
although there’s lots of work to be done until we get there.”
Considering that the event, earmarked for the top four Test
teams in the ICC rankings at December 2016, was to be staged in the English
summer, it is not out of the question that Smith, who will be 36 in 2017, had quietly
targeted the novel event as an appropriate swansong.
After all, he is vastly respected in the UK, where he first
burst to prominence as a callow, 22-year-old captain of South Africa and
blasted back-to-back double centuries against England on the 2003 tour.
But all signs point to the ICC cancelling – probably
permanently – the Championship at a summit later this month, which will not
come as music to the ears of the 114-Test veteran (batting average a touch
under 50) Smith.
Various English cricket writers have been suggesting for
some weeks that it would not see the light of day (it had initially been set
for 2013) and that perhaps instead there will be a reprieve for the once
doomed, 50-overs Champions Trophy.
The last-named event does not have the gravitas of the World
Cup, although it has a better strength-versus-strength feel and is not as
Sponsors and broadcasters have reportedly not exactly been
hurdling each other to secure rights to the Test Championship, whilst another
potentially major snag is hosts England’s slip to No 4 in the rankings –
meaning there is no guarantee they will even qualify for the maiden
Championship on their soil.
How to determine the weight of drawn matches at the
tournament is a further complex issue.
Reports from the UK suggest that as partial appeasement for
the Championship being shelved, financial incentives to seek prime spots on the
ICC Test rankings – the Proteas currently hold the mace – will be increased.
Should the Championship indeed be removed from the
itinerary, Test connoisseurs are sure to only crank up pressure for the best
countries to only meet each other more consistently in the endangered but still
premier format, and for near-meaningless two-Test series between them (as has
just occurred between South Africa and India) to cease.
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