After the ODI World cup is done and dusted ,the ICC has now shifted its focus to enhance the importance of Test cricket. Hence the ICC have formally announced the start of the World Test championships to be held from 1st August 2019 across next 2 years with the final to be played in June 2021 at Lords . The top 9 test teams will be playing total of 27 bilateral series between themselves with 71 games which will be a minimum 2 match series to a maximum of 5 match series. Each team will be playing in 3 home and 3 away series which is mutually agreed upon by respective countries.
The 9 countries listed for test championships contest are: England, Australia, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Srilanka, Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh.
Each series will have equivalent number of 120 points. Which means the winning team in a test of a 2 test series will get 60 points. Similarly for 3 test series ,the winning team in a test will get 40 points, likewise for 4 test series and 5 test series ,a team winning a test will get 30 and 24 points respectively. In case of a tie, the points will get halved eg for a tie in a 4 test series both teams will get 15 points each or for a tie in a two test series both teams will get 30 points each. In the event of a draw ,both the teams will get 1/3 of the points. For eg teams drawing a match in a three test series will get 13.33 points (40/3) and for teams drawing a match in a 5 match series they will get 8 points each (24/3).
To clearly explain the point system further we take an example of Australia winning 3 games out of 5 vs England in Ashes with 1 match tied and 1 drawn . For 3 wins , Australia will get 3*24 = 72 points. For 1 tied match Australia gets 12 points (ie 24/2) and for 1 drawn game Australia gets 8 points (ie 24/3) .Thus in total Australia gets 72+12+8= 92 points from Ashes whereas England gets only 20 points (1 tie ,1 draw and 3 losses)
The advantages :
The biggest advantage is that all bilateral test series will evoke a lot more interest accross the World. For example , previously an Indian would have hardly kept track of a Bangladesh v England 2 test series but now with points systems in place and with India on points is supposed to compete with England , the Indian fan will now keep an eye on the happenings of Bangladesh v England game. Thus lot of interest will be created on test cricket now with this point system in place. Also the ages long demand of having an official test champion will be realised.
The nine teams in question are not playing equivalent number of games. In fact there is a big difference of the number of matches being played in few cases, eg Pakistan , who is one of the top 5 teams will be playing only 13 tests in these 2 years as per schedule while India will be playing 18 games , Australia 19 games and England 22 games. So in case of a patchy start ,Pakistan will have fewer games to make a comeback or even if Pakistan does well they may not reach the required number points due to far too fewer games they are playing if for example India and Australia does adequately well in their games.
Too much of a difference in points offered for a win in a 5 match series compared to 2 match or 3 match series and no extra points or weightage for away wins. For example suppose Australia wins the 5 match Ashes series played in England by 4-0 in which case they will get 104 points (at the rate of 24 points per win and 8 points per draw in 5 match series). Similarly India plays weaker Bangladesh at home in 2 test series and win both games in which case India will get 120 points (60×2). So here Australia inspite of playing better opposition in a guerrilling 5 test series away from home gets much lesser reward compared to India who played an easier opposition at home. Also it may be noted that often 2 match series are played between unmatched teams whereas longer series are played between relatively well matched sides.
The above two areas needs to be addressed by ICC. Also ICC must decide on the itinerary for a more equated contest amongst teams rather than leaving it to the respective boards. These areas ICC needs to address to avoid recurrences of controversies which we faced after that brilliant ODI World cup 2019 final at Lords weeks ago.
However still it’s a decent initiative by ICC to revive the longest format and leading cricketers like Jimmy Anderson, Virat Kohli and Tim Paine have already expressed their support.
Brief summary of Test series schedules which will be a part of World Test championship:
|SL v NZ (2019), WI v IND (2019)||IND v SA (2019)||SA v ENG (2019-20)||ENG v AUS (2019)|
|PAK v SL (2019), IND v BAN (2019)||AUS v NZ (2019-20)||AUS v IND (2020-21)||IND v ENG (2021)|
|AUS v PAK (2019), PAK v BAN (2020)||ENG v WI (2020)|
|NZ v IND (2020), SL v ENG (2020)||SL v BAN (2020)|
|BAN v AUS (2020), WI v SA (2020)||ENG v PAK (2020)|
|BAN v NZ (2020), NZ v WI (2020)||BAN v WI (2021)|
|NZ v PAK (2020), SA v SL (2021)||SA v AUS (2021)|
|PAK v SA (2021), WI v SL (2021)|