|An empty stadium - what this aims to avoid|
I personally don't think that this has merit. This series was particularly one sided. But it wasn't much different to Australia vs India last year. Or New Zealand vs Zimbabwe, the first two matches of Australia vs Sri Lanka, etc.
It also was less than twelve months ago that the same teams played out a 1-0 series over 3 matches. New Zealand were a worse team, without Southee, Ryder, Taylor and Vettori, and South Africa were better, on the back of a tour to Australia, and in familiar conditions.
The nature of test cricket, however, is that when teams are mismatched across the park, that the game can blow out quickly. Accordingly it is sensible to want teams to only play other teams of a similar ability.
It also seems ridiculous that the Kenyan team of the early 2000's never got to play a test, and yet the Zimbabwe team (who were vastly inferior) did. The path into test cricket is a political one, not a cricketing one, and that seems wrong.
However, there is a history to test cricket that is worth preserving. Records, like Don Bradman's 99.94 or Barnes' 49 wickets in a series, are part of the folklore of cricket, and while Barnes' record was against a particularly poor South African side, it is still more meaningful than if Ili Tugaga was to take 51 wickets in a 6 match series between Samoa and New Caledonia.
I've been thinking about this for a while, and I think have a possible solution that preserves the integrity of test matches, while allowing a path through for lower teams.
Firstly the top 16 teams in the world should broken up into divisions of 4 teams. However these should not be exclusive divisions. Test cricket should also be run on a 4 yearly basis. The first 3 years being the league phase and then the 4th year the championship year.
Teams in the top division would play a 5 match home and away series against each other every 3 years. This means one home series and one away series against a top opposition every year. They would also play 4 cross-over series against a second division team. These should be 3 match series, played either at home or away.
Teams in the second division would play a 4 match home and away series against each other every 3 years, as well as the 3 match cross over series against the top teams and also 2 match cross over series against the next tier of teams. These would all be considered test matches.
The third division teams would only have their matches against second division teams count as test matches. They would also play a 3 first class match series, home and away, against teams in their division, and also a 2 match first class series against teams from division 4.
Division 4 teams would play home and away series of first class matches against each other, the cross-over matches against division 3 teams and then also play matches against teams in their continental region.
This means that the major series (Ashes, Frank Worrell, D'Olivera etc) would still happen, but they would be every 4 years if there is a large difference between the team's playing abilities or twice every 4 years if the teams are both in the same division.
Here are some possible schedules for England, India and Afghanistan based on the current rankings on Idle Summers, (who I feel does a better job of test rankings than anyone else).
England would tour South Africa for the D'Olivera Trophy (5 matches) and Sri Lanka (3 matches), and receive a visit from Australia for the Ashes (5 matches). They would end up playing 13 matches that year.
India would tour West Indies (4 matches) and Bangladesh (2 matches), and host New Zealand (4 matches) and South Africa (3 matches). A total of 13 matches in the year.
Afghanistan would tour Ireland (3 fc matches) and UAE (2 fc matches) and receive visits from New Zealand (2 tests) Bangladesh (2 tests) and Scotland (3 fc matches). They would play 4 tests and 8 first class matches.
England would tour Pakistan and Australia (5 matches each) and host India and the West Indies for 3 matches each. They would play 16 matches that year
India would have a busy year, touring England (3 tests) and Sri Lanka (4 tests) and hosting West Indies (4 tests), Australia (3 tests) and Zimbabwe (2 tests). 16 matches in the year.
Afghanistan would tour West Indies for two tests, Bangladesh for 3 first class matches and Namibia for 2 first class matches. They would host Zimbabwe for 3 first class matches. 2 tests and 8 first class matches in the year.
England would host Pakistan and South Africa for 5 tests each, and travel to New Zealand for 3 tests.
India would tour New Zealand (4 tests), Pakistan (3 tests) and Afghanistan (2 tests), and host Sri Lanka for 4 tests and Ireland for two. They would play a total of 15 tests in the year.
Afghanistan would host Ireland for 3 first class matches, Kenya for 2 first class matches and India for 2 tests. They would tour Zimbabwe (3 fc matches) and Sri Lanka (2 tests).
There may have to be games played outside of countries for matches that they are hosting. For example, teams may be unwilling to travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan due to safety concerns, so those matches might be scheduled in the UAE for Pakistan and Bangladesh for Afghanistan (for example). Matches that are unable to take place due to political reasons (ie if Fiji made the grade, NZ currently has a sporting boycott on matches in Fiji, and on Fijian sportsmen who have relatives in the military regime.) either a compromise could be worked out or the teams could split the points.
At the end of the cycle the top team in each division would be promoted, the bottom team relegated. The winner of the inter-continental cup would be promoted to division 4 in place of the team that was at the bottom of that division. The only exception would be that the winner of the world test championship would always be given a spot in the top 4, so if a team from outside there made it in, every other team would move down one position.
The ICC would have to fund teams in division 3, paying a proportion of their costs, and completely fund teams in division 4 for travel and accommodation. Television rights would cover the costs of teams in the top 2 divisions without any assistance.
While this format wouldn't eradicate sides getting destroyed, it might mean that it happens less often, and we would get more high quality cricket between those matches. It would also mean that there would be a level playing field for every team, and every player to succeed.