By Satish Mishra ,  24-Sep-2019

9 Countries to fight out for crown of Test-King

As per schedule announced by The International Cricket Council (ICC) for the World Test Championship will be played for next two years. This long-awaited championship that provides context to bilateral five-day cricket in renewed and more attractive form. The nine top-ranked sides in the world will compete in the tournament, with each side playing six series on a home-and-away basis against mutually selected opponents in the two-year cycle. League matches will be between July 15 2019 to April 30 2021 and top two sides will fight it out ICC World Test Championship final in June 2021. It started from 1 August 2019 with the first Test of the 2019 Ashes series and will finish with a final at Lord’s in England in June 2021. It features nine of the twelve Test playing nations, each of whom will play a Test series against six of the other eight teams. Each series consists of between two and five matches, so although all teams will play six series (three at home and three away), they will not play the same number of Tests. Each team will be able to score a maximum of 120 points from each series and the two teams with the most points at the end of the league stage will contest the final. In case of a draw or a tie in the final, two teams playing the final will be declared as joint champions of the ICC World Test championship. After the tournament’s start with the Ashes India-West Indies series to follow next. With other member countries confidence this is surely going to grow interest in the international game, even ICC is very much looking forward to launching the World Test Championship with big funfare. After Ashes marking the tournament’s launch and India-Windies tour, New Zealand is hosting Sri Lanka for hectic start to the new tournament.

3 Countries left out

Present situation and strained relation between India & Pakistan has affected this Test Championship too. ICC has acted very smartly by avoiding confrontation of these two super opponents. Since each team is scheduled to play only six of the eight possible opponents, the ICC has been able to announce that India and Pakistan will not play against each other in the first and second editions of the tournament. The nine Full members of the ICC Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies will participate. The three Full members of the ICC Afghanistan, Ireland & Zimbabwe will not participate. These are the three lowest ranked Full members of the ICC. They have been included in the ICC Future Tours Programme and they will play a number of Test matches during this period against Championship participants and each other (12 each for Ireland and Afghanistan, 21 for Zimbabwe[14]) but these will have no bearing on the Championship.

After 2 failed attempts ICC set the tone

The ICC has for long attempted to add context to bilateral cricket creation of the championship – along with a 13-team one-day international league will act as a qualification pathway to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 – will do just that. Bringing context to bilateral cricket is not a new challenge, but with the release of Future Tour Programme, ICC members found a genuine solution that gives fans around the world the chance to engage regularly with international cricket that has meaning and the possibility of a global title at the end. In fact its its a step in the right direction. Every strong supporters of Test cricket will welcome the creation of the new World Test Championship. It is a big step in the right direction and will help ensure Test cricket is more sustainable and competitive in the long-term – and help secure its unique place at the pinnacle of our international game. Its a win-win situation for all and by bringing more relevance and context into international cricket now world cricket can farewell what used to be known as neutral games, and introduce interest into every fixture, no matter which side is playing. Infact International Cricket Council (ICC) first approved the idea for a World Test Championship in 2010 almost a decade back, and saw two cancelled attempts to hold the inaugural competition in 2013 and 2017.

Top 4 are accused of favoured schedule

Rather than being a full round-robin tournament in which everyone plays everyone else equally, each team plays only six of the other eight. Each team plays a different set of opponents, and so has an easier or harder schedule. For example, New Zealand do not play England and South Africa, two of the highest ranked teams, whereas Australia do not play Sri Lanka and West Indies, two of the lowest ranked teams. Therefore New Zealand appears to have an advantage over Australia. Also, while there is a balance with all teams playing three series at home and three series away, this is not the case with the individual matches. For example, India play ten Tests at home and eight away, whereas the West Indies play just six at home and nine away. Four of the ‘biggest’ and highest-ranked nations (India, England, Australia and South Africa) all play each other, in some of the longest series of the whole Championship, and the teams these four nations do not play are generally lower-ranked nations. As all the series are mutually agreed between the two nations involved, this had led to allegations that the schedule has been agreed based on what will provide the biggest television audiences, and therefore television receipts, rather than selecting an even spread of teams. This shows that success in this competition is not the only priority for these nations.

120 Points per home-away series

Some of the Test series in this Championship are part of a longer ongoing series, such as the 2019 Ashes series. Also, some of these nine teams will play additional Test matches during this period which are not part of this Championship, as part of the ICC Future Tours Programme for 2018–23, mainly to give games to the three Test playing sides not taking part in this competition. In terms of player uniforms, all players will adopt a squad number that is the same as their ODI and Twenty20I numbers, with players that only play Test cricket also being assigned a squad number. The ICC decided that the same number of points will be available from each series, regardless of series length, so that countries that play fewer Tests are not disadvantaged. It also decided that points will not be awarded for series results, but for match results only. These will be split equally between all the matches in the series, regardless of whether or not a match is a dead rubber. In a five-match series, therefore, 20% of the points will be available each match, while in a two-match series, 50% of the points will be available each match.

Members free to decide on test numbers

Therefore, depending on whether the series is 2, 3, 4 or 5 matches long, the number of points awarded for a single match win will be a half, a third, a quarter, or a fifth of the maximum possible from the series. The ICC also decided that a tie should be worth half of a win and that a draw should be worth a third of a win.This all means that after each match, a side could be awarded a half, a third, a quarter, a fifth, a sixth, an eighth, a ninth, a tenth, a twelfth or a fifteenth of the total points available from the series, depending on the result and how many matches the series happens to consist of. Ultimately, this means a figure for the total points available from the series needs to be picked very carefully, as not many numbers give all integers when split into all these different fractions (360 does). Being a highly composite number, when 120 is split into all these fractions, an integer is obtained in all cases except one.