IRELAND’s dream of test cricket at Malahide will come a step closer if the International Cricket Council adopts a radical new plan for organising the game.

The Irish Daily Star has seen a copy of a secret draft position paper for the ICC’s Finance & Commercial Affairs Commercial Rights Working Group which calls for promotion to and relegation from a new top eight tier.

The document calls on ICC to create “a playing system based on meritocracy and not category of membership.”

Ireland has been the leading ‘associate’ member for the past eight years but is excluded from tests because of the closed shop ‘full’ member system.

The leaked report suggests a system which will provide a ladder for associates to “potentially play tests based on their performance in the ICC Inter-Continental Cup”.

Last month Ireland won its fourth I-Cup out of the last five stagings of the event.

There has been much speculation that the cup would be binned, but the new proposal could mean a lifeline for the four-day tournament.

The ICC Executive Board will consider the plan at its quarterly meeting on 28-29 January.

The document suggests that from 2015-23 teams ranked 9 and 10 in test cricket will play in two editions of the I-Cup with the leading associates. The winner of each event will challenge the 8th ranked nation in a two home/two away series with the winner promoted to play against the top seven nations.

Ironically, while it provides Ireland with a pathway to test cricket, it also makes that more difficult by requiring Phil Simmons’ men to beat three current full members to do so.

The likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh will lose out under this plan but a "no disadvantage" condition states that none of the current ICC Full Members would lose that status – and the estimated $25m year subsidy.

However, there is likely to be opposition to the plan at this point, as it says that “relegation exceptions” will apply to India, England and Australia, “in order to protect ICC income due to the importance of those markets and teams to prospective ICC media rights buyers.”

The group also suggests a new Executive committee made up of the big three plus one member other representing the other seven full members and 100+ associates and affiliates.

While the document states “the leading countries of India, Australia and England have agreed to provide greater leadership at and of ICC,” many will see this as a naked power grab.

India has flexed its muscles at ICC in recent years, with 80% of the body’s income coming from the Asian giant.

The report also noted that of the $315m ICC allocates to A&A; cricket, only $125m actually ends up in the countries, with the rest going on administration and organising tournaments.

The group states that $48.6m went to the top six associates (including Ireland) in the period 2007-15. It proposes that more be invested in the higher performing associates, with the top six sharing $105m in the eight years from 2015-23.