ICC make important recommendations for Test cricket, including the continuation of the coin toss

The ICC have come together to discuss some important issues facing cricket, and have handed down a number of recommendations as a result. These issues will be discussed further in June, with final decisions to be handed down soon after.

The toss

There has been much recent discussion about the validity of the toss in Test cricket. Many argue that it offers an unfairly advantage to one team based, quite literally, on the flip of a coin, particularly in certain playing conditions when the pitch is prone to significant deterioration over the course of five days. Others argue it is a necessity, and to do away with it would be to rob Test cricket of one of it’s oldest tradition.

The ICC’s findings suggest that it agrees with the latter. According to the findings of cricket’s governing body, there was some deliberation on whether the away team should be automatically handed the power to choose whether they bat or bowl first. The idea behind this, aside from providing greater equality in a sport in which it seems to be becoming increasingly more difficult to win away from home, is that it would discourage the development of pitches which suit the home team, something which has been a topic of hot discussion and significant controversy in recent times. 

The ICC, however, deliberated that the toss was an ‘integral part’ of the game, and that it ‘forms part of the narrative’. As a result, at least for the near future, the toss will stay.

Heavier penalties for ball-tampering and abuse

It isn’t hard to see why this was on the agenda. After Australia - and more particularly, Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft - shrouded themselves in controversy during their recent tour of South Africa, much was made of the ICC’s apparent inability to severely penalise. The players ultimately received sanctions of at least nine months each, but this was the punishment of Cricket Australia, not the ICC.

The ICC, as a result of the laws they themselves had created, had very little wiggle room in handing down an appropriate penalty. Aside from purely as a matter of logic and reason, the ICC needed to change this in the future to avoid serious criticism, so this was an obvious suggestion for them to make.

The abuse aspect of this decision is a little more vague, but it is inherently tied to the ball-tampering saga. Australia have continually found themselves in the midst of controversy about their aggressive on-field behaviour, and though they certainly aren’t the only ones, they have become the most obvious representation of this problem. Like with the ball-tampering problem, the ICC previously had very little jurisdiction to punish players for this behaviour, and these recommendations will presumably change that. The specifics of the recommendations state that the harsher penalties will be for ‘personal, insulting, offensive or orchestrated abuse’. 

The points process in the upcoming Test Championship

With the World Test Championship set to begin in July of 2019, the specifics of how it will run are beginning to take shape. The exact number of points to be given out for a win, loss or draw weren’t revealed, though the ICC did reveal the ratio of points distribution. The way in which draws will be rewarded is clearly the most pertinent point of discussion within this, and the ICC have proposed that draws be given a third of the points that are given for a win.

Many may have expected draws to be worth half of a win, but this move is a good one for Test cricket. It will encourage more aggressive gameplay, with teams having far more motivation to win considering the significant points advantage this has in comparison to a draw.

Also discussed was the possibility of awarding points for the outcome of a series, though it appears teams will only receive points for winning individual games, rather than the series. The benefits of having extra points given for a series would be that it would add an element of excitement to individual matchups, but considering that each and every game will have some bearing on the Championship rankings, presumably the ICC saw this as sufficient to ensure competitive games.

As mentioned, these changes are not yet confirmed, and at this point are simply recommendations. Within a month or so, however, the ICC will determine whether they are fully ratified.