Test cricket has for long been considered the 'pinnacle of the sport' by ardent fans and cricket experts. It only seemed fit to have a marquee event for the longest format of the sport. The World Test Championship is the ICC's move to create a 'World Cup' for Test cricket. This will bring Test cricket at par with the limited-overs, namely the ODI and T20 formats, by making sure that all the three formats of cricket will now have a 'World Cup' to be won by contesting teams.
What is unique about the World Test Championship?
There will be many unique things about the World Test Championship. For one, the player's jersey will feature the Instagram handles of the cricketers. Moreover, players on the field will be allowed to play in shorts if the temperature shoots beyond 35°C. At least these were the major announcements made by the ICC about the uniqueness of the Test Championship on April Fool's day.
In a move to bring fans even closer to the sport, broadcasters will have the option to position commentators on the field of play behind the slips cordon pic.twitter.com/l8FMdFcCZ9
— ICC (@ICC) April 1, 2019
The ICC has, however, made a move allowing players to wear jerseys with their names and numbers on it, as in the limited-overs formats. We'll see these jerseys when Australia tour England for the Ashes starting 1 August.
Names and numbers on the back of Test shirts! pic.twitter.com/M660T2EI4Z
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 22, 2019
What do the Ashes have to do with the World Test Championship?
Everything! The first Ashes Test match will also be the first game of the Inaugural World Test Championship. This is where the Championship distinguishes itself from any other cricket tournament for it will be played over nearly two years, from 2019-21. The two-match Test series to be played during India's tour of West Indies beginning August this year will also be the start of both teams' campaign in the Test Championship.
How exactly will the Championship work?
The nine top-ranked Test teams are each required to play six bilateral Test series against mutually chosen opponents throughout the Championship cycle. Three of those six series will be played at home and three are to be played while touring. The tournament will not exactly progress in a round-robin format as each side will face only six of the eight teams. Further, each series can have anywhere between two to five tests but the points on offer from each Test series will be the same i.e. 120. The points will be awarded, not for the result of the Test series but the result obtained in each test match.
So if it's a two-match Test series, a win in the first test will be worth 60 points (50% of 120). If it's a three-match series, a win will be worth 40 points (1/3rd of 120). In a four-match Test series, a win will be worth 30 points (1/4rth of 120) and so on. In the event of a tie or no result, both teams will gain 30 points or half of the points for a win i.e. 60 in a two-match Test series. In the event of a draw, both teams will obtain 20 points (1/3rd of 60). A team will get no points if it loses the match. The points system is further explained in the table below.
|Matches in series||Points for a win||Points for a tie||Points for a draw||Points for a loss|
Which are the nine contesting teams for the World Test Championship
Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan will not be playing in the championship. However, barring Zimbabwe which has been suspended by the ICC, both Ireland and Afghanistan will play Test cricket during this period as part of the ICC's Future Tours Programme (FTP). Moreover, the teams contesting in the Championship are also scheduled to play against each other in Tests which will not be a part of their Championship commitments. England will be touring New Zealand for a two-match Test series this November. Both sides won't gain any points for the Championship from those Tests.
How will the winner of the World Test Championship be decided?
The two teams with the most points at the end of the league will contest the final in England in June 2021.
What was the idea behind the World Test Championship?
Test cricket has been in decline for long as T20 cricket gains popularity among the youth. Several ideas such as day-night Tests and four-day Test matches have been debated, discussed and experimented with to increase the appeal of Test cricket among the masses. The World Test Championship is one such experiment by the ICC to arrest the declining viewership of Test cricket and increase its appeal, particularly among the youth.
Those who've backed the idea have claimed that the Championship will lend an extra flavour of competitiveness and seriousness to each bilateral Test series as every team will be mindful of their results having a bearing on the overall points table. The Championship will also do away with dead rubbers as points will be awarded per game and not per series.
What are the critics saying?
The teams have a say in choosing their six opponents. This means that the teams could choose not to face top-ranked 'tougher' teams while playing against teams they deem to be 'easier' opponents. This has led many to proclaim that each team's schedule in the Championship isn't weighted in an equal and fair manner.
However, proponents of the idea have likened its merit to the usual ODI World Cup format where the contesting teams were divided into different groups. Thus, each team would not necessarily face every other team in the tournament.
Which teams will India play against in the World Test Championship
India will begin their campaign in the Championship with the two-match Test series against the West Indies starting 22 August. Given below is India's schedule for the Championship.
West Indies (away) | 2 Tests
South Africa (home) | 3 Tests
Bangladesh (home) | 2 Tests
New Zealand (away) | 2 Tests
November 2020-January 2021
Australia (away) | 4 Tests
England (home) | 5 Tests