A meaningful test cricket championship could be established by the end of next week.
The International Cricket Council's board and chief executives meet from February 1-4 in Dubai with the issue returning to the agenda after getting pinballed and finessed through a labyrinth of working committees and previous gatherings.
The only impediment to a definitive decision on the issue might be the chaos enveloping the Board of Control for Cricket in India; the country's Supreme Court sacked the BCCI president and secretary this month. The court is set to appoint a panel of administrators tomorrow to run the game, but whether they will be present at the pow-wows in Dubai remains moot.
Regardless, the status quo of a test rankings system could be upgraded to two pools of six teams with scope for cross-over games. A biennial final is being pitched for a venue such as Lord's. Adding to the historic plan, Afghanistan and Ireland will become the 11th and 12th teams promoted to test status, the first to be elevated since Bangladesh in June 2000.
Originally a two-tier system of seven "division one" and five "division two" teams was proposed, with one team being promoted and relegated every two years. However, that was opposed by the national representatives of some lower-ranked teams because it would be perceived as demeaning to the "full ICC member" status for which they originally toiled.
The move to finalise such a championship comes at a vital juncture in cricket's history. Supposed "competition" between countries on the rankings table had largely become irrelevant, apart from any new No 1 receiving a mace and a bonus payment for their efforts.
Two key examples of the current system's apathy arose in the past three months. On October 30 three tests - Bangladesh versus England, Sri Lanka versus Zimbabwe and West Indies versus Pakistan - were played simultaneously with no impact other than ranking points and the honour of a series win. The same occurred on November 26, when New Zealand met Pakistan, India met England and Australia met South Africa.
In a sporting world driven by competitions and leagues offering contextual relevance, test cricket continued to saunter along its own quaint plane. A catalyst to the reform process has been the momentum gathered by Twenty20 leagues around the world, notably Australia's Big Bash League, whose crowds dwarfed those seen at the Australia-Pakistan tests over the holiday period.
Last year, ICC chief executive Dave Richardson said the earliest the concept could be implemented was 2019 when broadcasting deals are renewed. That's despite the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations claiming 72 per cent of players were in favour.
Increased player migration from the test arena to the T20 merry-go-round makes a decision inevitable sooner rather than later.
New Zealand Cricket will be represented at the meetings by board chairman Greg Barclay and chief executive David White.