When New Zealand were crowned as the first Test champions after beating India in the finals of the inaugural Test championship, it showed the world why Test cricket still is the ultimate form of the game. Although, it reignited the passion for the format, the World Test Championship wasn’t one without flaws. Shortly after completing the first WTC final, the ICC revamped the points system for the second edition to make it a level playing ground for all participants.
With England versus India series getting underway earlier in August, the second edition of ICC’s World Test Championship also got underway. The second edition, which started with the ongoing Pataudi Trophy, will end in 2023. Nine teams will be playing bilateral Test series, with each playing six series – three at home and three away.
New Zealand will get their title defense campaign underway against India later in 2021.
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After the uproar of the last edition’s point system, the ICC has revamped the points system.
The second edition will see a team take 12 points for a win, four for a draw and six for a tie, no matter the series’s length. This means a five-Test series has the potential to score 60 points, while a two Test series can hand a team a maximum of 24 points. Teams will also be docked for slow overrate, just as England and India found out about after the first Test in Nottingham. Both teams were docked two points each.
The new system will allow the relative performance of the teams to be compared at any point in time, meaning the cancellation of any matches or series for any reason will not impact the points table directly. The ICC also stated that they would also standardize the imbalance in the number of matches played by teams. In the second edition of the WTC, it will once again be the percentage of available points collected that will determine the standings of the league table.
Speaking about what lead to the change in the points system, the Acting CEO of ICC, George Allardice, said, “We received feedback that the previous points system needed to be simplified. The Cricket Committee took this into consideration when proposing a new, standardized points system for each match. It maintained the principle of ensuring that all matches in a WTC series count towards a team’s standing, while accommodating series varying in length between two Tests and five Tests. During the pandemic we had to change to ranking teams on the points table using the percentage of available points won by each team, since all series could not be completed. This helped us determine the finalists and we were able to complete the championship within the scheduled time frame. This method also allowed us to compare the relative performance of teams at any time, regardless of how many matches they had played.”
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One of the main issues of the second edition of the World Test Championship is the format, mainly the number of games each team plays. Ideally, each team should be given the same number of games to fight for a spot in the final, but that is not the case. Even though all the teams do play six series each, the number of matches varies.
While England are scheduled to play 22 Tests, Bangladesh will be playing on 12. The inequality of matches, though is most likely due to the international cricket calendar. Crowded with ICC tournaments and domestic T20 leagues, which draw in more viewership for the ICC, it would have been tough to have an equal number of test matches in each WTC series.
Another reason is, not all teams will be playing in the WTC. Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Ireland are not part of the edition as given the financial burden, it was not the most feasible option. Speaking on the matter, Allardice said, “We’ve got other Test-playing countries who are keen to be involved (in the WTC), but on the other hand, the number of series you can fit in a two-year period is probably not going to increase. The calendar is congested, and some countries have introduced new T20 leagues, which takes their national team out of action for a period of time. Realistically, six series is going to be the number a team will play. How many teams in the competition is still being considered amongst the members.”
Reserve day a thing now?
The inaugural WTC final saw the match being decided on the sixth day, which was a reserve day. Although it did appear in the final, the ICC has not announced that reserve days will be regular apart from the WTC finals.
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The Finals – One Match or a Series?
There was much debate about the first WTC final when Indian head coach Ravi Shastri and captain Virat Kohli made the feelings clear about having a one-off test final instead of a three-match series.
Although there has been talks about changing the finals format to a series, the ICC has not said anything about the final’s format. Hence, we will need to wait and see what is decided.