When he took charge as the ICC chairman last year, Greg Barclay said the World Test Championship might go back to the drawing board. You must be happy the ICC board recently agreed to retain the WTC as is for the next eight-year cycle?
Yes, we are. The finish to the World Test Championship, not just [from] a fan interest point of view, but even the players were engaged, [wondering] are we not qualifying or what do we have to do to qualify. That's the sort of result we were after when the World Test Championship was created.
In terms of the future, in our preliminary discussions with the Full Members around the Future Tours Programme [FTP] beyond 2023, there was universal acceptance that the World Test Championship should continue. The same assumptions around a two-year cycle and a final at the end of it have been supported by the Full Members. That's been really positive.
I know that midway through the cycle, with Covid rampant in so many countries, there was a lot of uncertainty around the cricket schedule and the future of the Test Championship. But we have seen the fruits of why it was created in the last few months. And, certainly, the [thinking] among the members is that it should continue.
Will it continue in the same format - top nine Test teams playing six series each on a home-and-away basis?
This [second WTC] cycle [2021-23] is locked in and it's the same format - nine teams and six series [each, over that period]. The fixtures were finalised in 2018. We are now looking at the cricket calendar beyond 2023 and the structure of the World Test Championship. We've got other Test-playing countries who are keen to be involved, but on the other hand, the number of series you can fit in a two-year period is probably not going to increase.
The calendar is congested and some countries have introduced new T20 leagues, which takes their national team out of action for a period of time. Realistically, six series is going to be the number a team will play. How many teams in the competition is still being considered amongst the members.
Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe will be hungry to prove their mettle. Is revisiting the two-tier model an option?
We had that discussion back in in 2016 or 2017. And it [the two-tier model] didn't have support then. The most important thing is that we provide a pathway for all the Test teams. There's nine in the Test Championship at the moment, and there's three more who want their Test matches to have context. How that translates into competition structures is something we're still working through.
"Realistically, six series is going to be the number a team will play over the two-year WTC cycle"
How do you help these three countries who want to play more Test cricket?
There's a couple of issues. One is that the volume of Test matches per year that's needed to be part of the World Test Championship in its current structure is six Test matches [per year], home or away. Up until now none of those three countries are playing that volume of Test cricket. So how do you get them up to a point where they are playing that volume and [have] the potential to be involved in a league in the future? They are obviously playing among themselves: Zimbabwe and Afghanistan played two Test matches recently in Abu Dhabi. You've got Zimbabwe having just played Pakistan [at home] as well. They have also got finite resources.
They have an opportunity to qualify for World Cups and there's expanded tournaments in the next cycle, too. They have to decide which formats they prioritise as well. Whether they play the volume of Test cricket needed to be part of the championship is one of the things we'll be keeping an eye on over this [2021-23] cycle.
Are there plans to bring back the Intercontinental Cup?
The recent decisions to expand the ODI and T20 World Cups for men and women is likely to see the focus being on developing more competitive Associate member teams in those two formats rather than the four-day format.
R Ashwin suggested that to provide more context to the WTC, the series within it could perhaps be played at neutral venues. What is the primary challenge there?
The beauty of bilateral cricket is that it's designed to satisfy the desires of cricket fans in each country. Generally, they want to watch their national team playing. Probably all of us are seduced by cricket when you are watching your heroes play, and your heroes are generally your national team players. That would be missing if you were to play the World Test Championship at neutral venues. That's why having the same number of series home and way is important. I don't think that the opportunity to play in front of home crowds is something the members would consider giving up.
Another factor that plays a role in bilateral series is the type of the ball used. In the WTC there are three types of balls being used across regions. Some people ask, why not have one ball, for a level-playing field.
One of the things we have always looked at over the years is, we don't try to standardise pitches in each country, and we don't dictate which balls members use for their conditions. When we were considering the arrangements for the final, the decision was that we would use the ball used for Test cricket in the country hosting the final. Once the final was in the UK, it was going to be a Dukes ball regardless of who was playing.
Can you expand on the percentage points system that will be used to rank teams going forward in the next cycle of the WTC?
The next cycle of the WTC, starting with England vs India in August, will see a change to the points system. Instead of each series being worth the same number of points, 120, irrespective of whether the series is played over two Tests or five Tests, the next cycle will see each match being worth the same number of points - a maximum of 12 per match. Teams will be ranked on the percentage of available points they won from the matches they have played. The aim was to try and simplify the points system and to allow teams to be meaningfully compared on the table at any point, though they may have played differing numbers of matches and series.
Recently the ICC board decided to expand the men's ODI World Cup back to 14 teams and to increase the T20 World Cup to 20 teams. How are you looking to balance expansion and commercial interests? A high number of mismatches was among the reasons why the ICC decided it limit the ODI World Cup to ten teams after the 2015 edition.
That's been one of the discussions over the last few months. Do you structure the events to grow the sport and provide opportunity for your member countries to compete in the flagship tournaments? Or are they primarily an opportunity to drive finances? They are always going to be both, but the view of our members - and it was quite a strong view across both the Chief Executives Committee and the [ICC] board - was that we were looking to expand our ODI World Cup and the T20 World Cup as well.
Over the last couple of years, the changes around the structure for T20 cricket have been quite significant: in terms of giving all the countries T20I status for the men's and women's national teams; to have a global ranking system for men's and women's T20I teams; to have a T20 World Cup every two years for all of our members to aspire to; and to have a qualification pathway that makes participation in the major events achievable.
So in the future, it might be only two steps, at worse three, for any country to get into a T20 World Cup. Those changes around expanding are very much looking to the future of the game and trying to create incentives in the pathway that drives competition.
The board also decided to bring back the Champions Trophy, which was stopped after the 2017 edition. Former ICC CEO Dave Richardson said in 2018 that the tournament would clash with the 13-team ODI Super League. In the past, too, Full Member boards like the BCCI had said they did not want a Champions Trophy because it would hurt their bilateral revenues. So what made the ICC board bring back the tournament?
It provides a high-quality event in the ODI format at a time when there's a lot of T20 cricket. The only reason it was discontinued between 2019 and 2023 was to create the opportunity for a T20 World Cup every two years. We had a very successful Champions Trophy in 2017 from all measures - whether it was on-field, attendance, ratings.
It was a question of whether that event in the calendar added to the ODI pathway, which we felt it did. Again, it's the same format: eight teams, two groups of four - so a short, sharp, high-quality ODI event. It provides a focal point for that format between World Cups.
So what happens to the ODI Super League now?
Like the Test championship, the ODI Super League is one of those points of discussion with the members around the next FTP. The ODI Super League was about to start pretty much at the time that Covid struck and it's been significantly disrupted. As we push towards the  ODI World Cup and series start happening on a more frequent basis, the context around those matches will be important. Eight teams out of 13 are qualifying for a ten-team World Cup in India in 2023. What it looks like qualifying for a 14-team World Cup in 2027 still needs to be decided.
Can you talk about the removal of the bidding process to determine the hosts for global events? It appeared as if the ICC had made a u-turn on what had been originally agreed in October 2019?
The hosts' [selection] process is now underway. The most important part was finalising the calendar of events and the time of year in which those events would be played. What we have asked for is a preliminary technical submission. Which events is a particular member interested in hosting? Do they plan on hosting it on their own? Are they planning on hosting it in combination with another member country? Which venues are they proposing to use?
The reason that finalising the calendar was important was because the number of matches and the length of the tournament has a knock-on effect on the number of venues used. The number of matches in the ODI World Cup and the T20 World Cup are quite high - 54 and 55 matches respectively. That's going to take hosts with a fair degree of venue infrastructure to deliver those tournaments. With more teams, that also means training facilities and everything else. So there are going to be other events better suited to countries with a small number of venues.
The Champions Trophy is potentially where venues are much more manageable, from the point of view of a host. We will get these preliminary submissions, look at the time of year, and how suitable playing cricket is at that time of year for each of the countries. Then we will invite a small number to put together a detailed submission, including all the necessary commitments a host needs to make to the ICC. Then the board will make a decision in September.
This process is for men's events?
Yeah. The process has started for the eight senior men's events. For women's events, Under-19s, Test championship finals, the process will kick off later in the year.
So there will be no bidding process for the men's events?
Each interested country will be invited to put in a submission. In terms of bidding, if you're saying, putting together the best proposal or the best submission, then yes, absolutely [there is bidding]. If you're implying it's just whoever gives the most money, that will not be the case. That's not dissimilar to what happened in 2006, when potential hosts for the cycle from 2007 to 2015 needed to put in submissions.