Pakistan's Adnan Akmal and Saeed Ajmal celebrate victory over England in Abu Dhabi in the second Test of their three-match series.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has confirmed that the top Test cricket nations will enjoy a major increase in prize money in the build-up to a proposed World Test Championship in 2017.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the ICC Board in Dubai to consider the findings of Pricewaterhouse Coopers' independent governance review led by Lord Woolf. It was also recommended to the ICC Council that from 2014 the position of ICC president be split into two roles - an ambassadorial presidency rotating on an annual basis and a new position of board chairman. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had been agitiating for an end to rotation and term limits in the top job, leading to accusations of attempts to establish an Indian life presidency.
Some US$3.8 million in prize money will be shared between the top four teams in the Reliance ICC Test Rankings from 2013 to 2015, with the annual reward for the top-ranked team set to rise to US$500,000 by 1st April 2015. Further increases are proposed from 2016 onwards. The world's number one side currently receives US$175,000 in prize money at the end of each year.
Outgoing ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat, whose successor is being sought by recruitment firm Egon Zehnder, said: "This worthy increase in prize money for the top four teams in the Reliance ICC Test Rankings can only be right. We are delighted at the growing interest and quality of Test match cricket and we must continue to promote the pinnacle form of the game before and beyond the Test Championship in 2017."
Alongside the increase, the board approved plans for a US$12 million Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme to help imporve standards in full member and associate/affiliate member nations. The fund would be distributed according to performance and evidence of strong planning, and is intended to support organisational growth as well as improvement on the field.
"We must continue to promote the pinnacle form of the game before and beyond the Test Championship in 2017."
The news is likely to be well received by the likes of the England and Wales Cricket Board, whose team currently head the Test rankings despite an impending series defeat to Pakistan in the UAE. Test match crowds in England have utterly defied the downward trend evident elsewhere, while its popularity in the country was a major factor in the ECB's lucrative renewal of its broadcast rights deal with Sky earlier this week.
ECB chief executive David Collier, who is reportedly a leading candidate to replace Lorgat when the latter steps down in June, stressed the need to protect the Test format when he spoke to SportsPro in December.
"I think it's very important to cricket," he argued, "and the reason I say that is that the whole raison d’etre, or the best test for an international cricketer, is Test match cricket. So the same with most of the county players will say that the LV= County Championship is their best test of their skills as a cricketer.
"So as we are a sport, we really want to promote what is the pinnacle of the game from a playing point of view. Now is that going to drive the majority of the commercial income? No, it's not. But we want to balance the two."
The move will be read as a small step in adressing the gap in prospective earnings for players in Test matches and shorter forms of the game, particularly T20 matches. Plans for the inaugural World Test Championship to be moved up to 2013 in place of the 50-over Champions Trophy were abandoned last year due to objections from ICC partners, notably the broadcaster ESPN Star Sports.
Other elements of Lord Woolf's 60-page report into the ICC's governance will be further discussed at the next board meeting in April, as will the De Speville Report into the workings of the ICC Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU).
A full interview with ECB chief executive David Collier is featured in the March 2012 edition of SportsPro magazine. Click here to subscribe.