Biff’s dream to be shattered

2014-01-14 14:13
Graeme Smith (AFP)

Cape Town – As recently as two months ago, Proteas Test captain Graeme Smith was publicly enthusing about the intended World Test Championship of2017.

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 arduously long.

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.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    graeme smith  |  cricket

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