The Bangladesh Cricket Board expressed doubts over playing the eight recently-cancelled Test matches that were part of the ICC Test Championship, unless the current cycle is extended. They said that unless there is an extension, there is no way they can be played in the stipulated time frame. With the latest postponement of the Sri Lanka tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bangladesh have so far missed eight Tests this year due to the virus - one away Test against Pakistan in April, a two-Test series against Australia in June, two Tests against New Zealand along with three against Sri Lanka. All eight were part of the ICC Test Championship that was launched on August 1 with the first Ashes Test and was running smoothly until the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Unless the current ICC Test Championship cycle is extended there is no way we can play those eight Test matches in the stipulated time frame of the first cycle," BCB cricket operations chairman Akram Khan told Cricbuzz on Saturday (June 27). "We are looking forward to see what ICC does with the Test Championship because unless it is reshuffled there is hardly any possibility to play the
eight Test matches that got cancelled," he said.
It has been 22 years since Ali Bacher, the then United Cricket Board of South Africa supremo, Clive Lloyd and Arif Ali Abbasi, former Pakistan Cricket Board CEO, had proposed the idea of a 'Test World Cup'. There were a couple more attempts made to hold such an event, but it fell through due to various reasons. The ICC officially launched the inaugural World Test Championship that was to be contested over two-year cycles, the first of which started on August 1, 2019 with the opening Ashes Test in Edgbaston.
The World Test Championship (WTC) comprises of the top-nine Test-playing nations that face each other in a two-year period. Each country was to play six Test series - three at home and three away. There were 27 series altogether during this cycle and a total of 71 Tests to be played. In the end, the top-two teams on the points table would face-off in a final to determine the World Test Champion. The group phase officially began on July 16, 2019, and was to run until March 31, 2021, after which the top two teams would contest the final.
However, the pandemic forced all those plans into a state of confusion and uncertainty with sport being stopped across the world for a substantial amount of time. Although cricket is resuming with the England-West Indies series, Bangladesh will take time to reach that stage due to the severity of the virus. In all potentiality, Bangladesh could be among the last Test-playing nations to resume cricket activity with the BCB headquarters remaining shut given it is in a red zone - one of the worst-hit areas in Dhaka.
BCB chief executive Nizamuddin echoed the same sentiment that was put up by Akram regarding the future of the eight Tests and added that if the ICC Test final is played as per schedule in June, then he does not see any future for those games. "If the Test Championship final match happens on schedule that is in next June then the fate of these matches [eight Tests] is very slim because it means there is no possibility of these Test matches because we have no space left to play these matches by next June," said Nizamuddin.
"But if the Test Championship final date gets extended, then maybe there will be a chance but even after the extension, even if there is an opportunity, it will have an impact on other schedules as well because we have a compact schedule until 2023," he said, adding that if any ICC event is postponed in the future, there might be a chance to play these can celled Tests, with agreement of the member boards.
"Now there is a chance, if there is no event, like ICC event or other events, then there can be a chance to play those games in that window but It will also depend as all are these are bilateral agreement, so it will be possible only if our member countries agree," said Nizamuddin. "If the ICC event or the date of the final of the Test Championship is extended then maybe there will be a chance, but nothing can be said about its future at the moment," he said.
"If ICC want to hold the Test Championship final in June, it is unlikely to happen because in that case, not everyone will get the same opportunity. We might be able to play three more Tests while another one will have eight Tests, another five. But in the current formula, everyone has to play the same number of Tests, so that opportunity is not happening. Since that opportunity is not happening, the chances of the Test Championship final being fixed at the scheduled time is uncertain," he said.
"These are being discussed at various levels, at the ICC board level. Board is where the presidents of the ICC member countries attend as board members, it is being discussed there. So it's a continuous process, everything is being discussed. But no final decision has been made yet. We will explore different options but it will not be right to say anything at this moment without making a decision from the meeting. Everything depends on the decision of the ICC," he concluded.