INTERNATIONAL Cricket Council is trying to launch a World Test championship for many years and they finally succeeded in launching a championship to find the best Test playing nation.
The recently initiated ICC World Test Championship will be a two year long tournament. The top nine teams of ICC’s ranking for Test teams released on 31st March 2018 are part of this championship which is launched in August and the Ashes series in England is the first series of this tournament.
In this ICC Test championship, a total of 71 Test matches will be played in 27 Test series played on home and away basis. In this championship, 16 Test series will be comprised of two Test matches, seven Test series will comprise of three Test matches, two Test series comprise of four Test matches and two Test series will be of five Test matches.
The International Cricket council while deliberating on the points system for this championship, has kept equal point for each Test series irrespective of the number of matches. Each Test series which is part of this championship will have a maximum of 120 points irrespective of the number of matches in the series.
The below given chart will help in understanding the points system:
In my view, the formula set by ICC to award points in this championship is unfair and is in favour of teams who will play more series comprising of two Test matches only.
After five Test matches played in the Ashes series, Australia and England — who drew 2-2 — have 56 points but due to the tricky and faulty points system of this World Test Championship, they are behind on points table to the like New Zealand and Sri Lanka who have obtained 60 points each from their single victory. India with two victories in Test matches against West Indies is leading the table with 120 points.
India after winning only two Test matches is leading the points table whereas Australia and England are now languishing at the 4th position in the points table. The difference in standing of two teams after winning the same number of matches clearly highlight the bias points’ distribution system of this Test championship which is heavily tilted in favor of those teams who play Test series comprising less number of matches.
I think instead of keeping same points for every Test series International cricket council would have been better served if they keep same number of points for each Test won or drawn irrespective of the number of matches in a series and award extra point to the team which won an away series. The current point system is unfair and it is feared that a team with more victories will be surpassed by a team with less victories.
Another complication i have noted is that if two teams finished on same points, the finalist will be decided on the basis of most series won and if this is also same, then the team with the higher runs per wicket ratio will qualify for the final. I wonder why numbers of Tests won are not kept as a second option to break the tie between two teams finishing on same points.
Along with ICC, the member countries are also to be blamed for drafting faulty rules. These member boards accept the rules but if some aspect goes wrong during or after the tournament, they started whining. It happened during the recently concluded ICC World Cup. First Pakistan after failing to qualify for the semifinals raised the issue that why net run rate was set as the criterion for qualifying for the semifinals and not the bilateral match between two teams finishing on same points. In the final of the same tournament, after the super over is also tied, England was declared winner because of the superior boundary count. New Zealand the losing finalist and many of its supporters raised hue and cry on this method of choosing the winner without giving due consideration to the fact that along with the cricket board of all the participating teams, New Zealands’ cricket board was also one of the signatory of world cup 2019 rules and they were fully aware of the rule to be applied if super over is tied in the final.
As for the ongoing Test championship, my fear is that how a teams and its board will react if after winning more Test matches it get less point whereas a team with less win qualify for the final because of more points it earn because of winning matches in series comprising of two matches.
Looking at the schedule of ICC Test Championship, England is the most disadvantaged team as they will play more Test series comprising of four and five Test matches and only one series comprising of two Test matches.
ICC for many years is using a formula for selecting the top team on ICC Test championship and maize and a hefty prize money is handed over to team finishing first on this table. People have often criticized this method as no weightage was given to opponent. Unfortunately ICC have launched the Test championship without giving much consideration to these factors and all those present in ICC hierarchy did a disservice to cricket by linking points earned on a victory on the number of matches to be played in a series.
I hope ICC for once rethink its strategy and rework the points awarding mechanism in the early stages of the Test championship.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019