Monday, November 30, 2009

Two-tier system crucial to saving Test cricket

AUSTRALIA was far too good for the West Indies in Brisbane, but was it a surprise? What questions were answered?

It proved that there is a massive gap between the top four or five-ranked Test teams and the bottom three or four.

Unfortunately, the worst fears about a poor West Indies team are true.

I love Test cricket, but I think it is has got to the stage where there are some things that need to be addressed.

I reckon we need a two-tier system for Test cricket with a grand final for the top two sides in a neutral venue in a one-off Test.

I love tradition and that's why I have been vocal about saving Test cricket.

I believe two tiers is the future and a grand final. Which means the fifth side in the top tier would be relegated to the bottom tier and the top team in that tier would be promoted.

I can hear people saying that there will be complications regarding sponsorship and the like. This might be true and the ICC will need to help on that one.

So how is the top five decided? The ICC rankings would get credibility as the system that determines which tier each country goes to.

The other advantage of a two-tier system is Test captains will need to play to win, to protect their spot in the top tier, which will surely result in more entertaining cricket.

Although it was good to see the Australian boys being ruthless, I'm not a big believer in the follow-on. But Ricky got it spot on and indeed spot on through the whole Test.

He also looked in super touch with the bat. For that matter, all the batters did, including the tail.

My only concern is Shane Watson. It's not because of his duck, I just know he is better suited in the middle order, right now and for the future.

What happens if he does fail a few times opening and the middle order piles on the runs against the ordinary Windies?

Where is the spot then for Watto?

He is confident now and a few failures opening could damage the space he is in. What then? Drop Watson?

No way.

Australian selectors cannot let this happen. Watson in the Australian team is a must.

It's great that he wants to open, but that is a short-term solution.

The start of the summer was the perfect time to put players in their best positions against weak opposition.

It's still not too late to make the tough and correct call, please!

I have known Watto for a long time and know how he ticks.

He is a good guy who just wants to be the best he can . . . he wants the responsibility, but deep down I reckon if the selectors said, "Mate, we want you in the team for a long time and want you to bat at five", he would say "Cool" or "Phew!"

He would do anything that Ricky wants - that's the truth.

But for the sake of his future, now is the time to make the tough call - move him to No. 5.

Mike Hussey has to open.

Remember Hussey was an opener for most of his career and is how he got selected in the first place.

We want Hussey at his best and opening could be just the move to bring out his best form again. It's the right thing by the team. Watto is a genuine all-rounder and is best suited at No. 5.

My top six would read: Hussey, Simon Katich, Ponting, Michael Clarke, Watson and Marcus North.

Then, if Hussey does not find form, there are openers in Shield cricket ready to step in.

Phil Hughes should be first-choice opener when he is in form. But first he must get over demons against the short ball and show he is hungry to get the opening spot back.

Chris Rogers has again piled on the runs, and if Hughes does not rediscover his form, Rogers is ready to go.

Where to now for the West Indies? I'm not sure they know, which is such a shame.

They are a very proud bunch, the West Indians, and will feel embarrassed at their performance in Brisbane.

They will come back, but they cannot sustain pressure for long periods of time with bat or ball.

Young opener Adrian Barath was a surprise and it was great to see him put up a fight.

Everyone knows Chris Gayle and Shiv Chanderpaul are the keys with the bat. But for those guys to use both video challenges when they must have known they were plum was to put themselves above the rest.

Speaking of the referral system, I think it worked and the more everyone gets used to it, the quicker it will be.

Later this week Les Burdett will roll out a typical belter in the city of churches.

Adelaide is a great venue to play and let's hope the cricket resembles a Test match, not a walk in the park.

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