Test champs look doomed

2014-01-15 00:00

CAPE TOWN — As recently as two months ago, Proteas Test captain Graeme Smith was publicly enthusing about the intended World Test Championship of 2017.

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.

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