The future - or lack thereof - of the Intercontinental Cup
Amongst the several paragraphs devoted to the new 50 over World Cup Qualifying pathway in a recent ICC press release was one paragraph about the Intercontinental Cup. And for fans of the tournament, it may not be the news they were hoping for.
The paragraph stated, "Following consultation with Members, it has been agreed in respect to multi-day cricket, that the ICC will now seek Expressions of Interest from Members who have previously competed in the I-Cup and / or World Cricket League Championship, who are keen and committed to playing the multi-day format. Following this, a structured multi-day competition on a cost-sharing basis will be proposed giving Members the choice of playing longer form cricket."
It is that cost-sharing basis that is causing some to have doubts over the future of the event. Associate budgets are already stretched rather thinly, and with full members often running Test matches at a loss, it seems unlikely that many associates will be able to put up the money to continue playing multi-day cricket.
The Intercontinental Cup undoubtedly played a key role in the rise of Ireland and Afghanistan to Test status, providing them as it did with a steady diet of competitive multi-day matches. A number of players credited it with refining their techniques, also helping them in the shorter forms. In Afghanistan's case it helped transform them from a team that often looked like 11 incarnations of Shahid Afridi in their approach to batting into a genuine first-class - and now Test - team.
The tournament was first played in 2004 as a 12 team tournament with teams divided into four regional groups of three. Scotland were the winners that year, with Ireland winning under the same format in 2005. Those first two tournaments involved three-day matches, and the 2006-7 tournament featured four-day matches, as did every subsequent event.
Teams in 2006-7 were in two groups of four, with Ireland winning again. They were winners also in the 2007-8 edition, an eight team league. A seven team league with six associates and a Zimbabwe XI made up the tournament in 2009-10 with Afghanistan emerging triumphant.
The 2011-13 and 2015-17 tournaments returned to the eight team league format, with Ireland winning in 2013 and Afghanistan winning in 2017.
Its future is now uncertain with teams now apparently being given the choice to participate or not. Whilst it is hoped that some multi-day cricket will continue, it is hard to take the demise of the Intercontinental Cup as we know it as a positive.