A Test Championship has been talked about for years. ICC wants to have one so that they can use it to revive the dwindling interest in the Purest form of cricket. If Test Cricket dies it is no doubt cricket will be poorer in quality. The Batting Temperament and bowlers ability to take 20 Wickets would be lost. A Team which would win the Test Championship will be no doubt the best cricket team of the time. T20 and ODI matches can be lost to 1 bad hour but that chance is highly unlikely in Test Cricket. Hence a Test Championship is really essential for cricket.
Having said that having the test championship has various challenges. A Test Match may take 5 days to finish. It may result in a draw. Also there are 10 Test Teams and it may take ages for such a tournament to finish. Then if Test Championship is held in 1 country then neutral test matches will have no crowds. Then to sponsor such tournament will be a challenge. Already there is a busy international schedule and fitting such a long tournament will be virtually impossible.
A 10 team Test Championship as seen would be very difficult to conduct and not sustainable. To make the Test Championship the no of slots should be such that the teams need to fight it out. As we have seen some teams clearly are behind the others the number is clearly less than 10.
The Test Cricket should have no compromise on quality and if I try to classify the present teams then Good Teams would be:- Ind, Aus, SA, Eng and Maybe SL. Average Teams would be Pak, NZ and NZ and BD and Zim as the bad teams. The no of Teams can vary between 4 to 8 and I would like to have just 4 slots so that no team is just guaranteed to qualify unless a shock happens. 4 teams also would mean that scheduling of the tournament would be easy and tournament is not extended.
Also presently there are various Test Series played by various Test nations. Over 6 year cycle each country is supposed to play a Test with all other 9 test nations. This has resulted in various meaningless series like BD touring Aus or SA V WI series where BD and WI just got thrashing and crowd interest was minimal.
The Test Championship can be a perfect answer and give a solution to many problems. Over 4 year all the teams should be mandated to play at least 3 test against all test nations. Then Test would contribute to points on the points table and the Top 4 teams would qualify for WORLD TEST CHAMPIONSHIP
Also to add more excitement and meritocracy to the Cricket Setup the team which comes last would be relegated to Tier 2 or present set up of Intercontinental Cup. The team which comes 9th in the pool would play a 3 test match series against the team which comes second in Tier 2 or Intercontinental Cup.
For the knowledge of the readers Intercontinental Cup is a 4 day match, First Class tournament for the top associates. The present IC Cup starts on 29th June, 2011 with Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Afghanistan, UAE, Kenya, Namibia and Canada playing in it.
Like if Zim come 9th and BD 10th in main table and Ireland win IC Cup and Kenya come second then Ireland get promoted as Test Nation for next 4 years and BD loose Test Status and then Zim and Ken play a 3 test match series. The excitement created can also help create excitement for Test Cricket in new nations.
This system would mean that even a Aus V BD can be exciting in some sense. The case may be if that Aus do not win 3-0 they do not come in top 4 and miss on qualification to World Test Championship while BD need to draw a Test i.e worse case of 2-0 to come 9th and avoid direct relegation. Even this test series would create excitement with Aus going all guns to win 3-0 while BD fighting to secure a draw. The draw will be a win for them. This would be better than present scenario where a draw would mean a draw.
But then comes another challenge:- Aus plays Ashes every 2 years with England and that is of 5 Test. We cannot simply change a tradition and then out of 10 tests cannot say we will pick these 3 test and rest 7 are for your series. Also Aus will play SA, Eng more often then a SL or BD.
We should have fixed max no of points that Aus can gain from playing tests against England. Over period of 4 years all Aus V Eng tests will contribute to a max of 20 points. Similarly other 8 test teams also Aus can earn a max of 20 pts whether they play 10 Tests or 3 Tests. This means a team can earn a max of 180 Points (Like in ODI world in a group at team could earn 12 points).
Then dividing the 20 points should be based on each and every test. This would make each test equally important. Here we look to a the point system now used by Test nations rather towards the Associates!!!! We use the point system used in Intercontinental Cup to divide the 20 points.
- Win – 14 points
- Draw if more than 10 hours of play lost – 7 points (otherwise 3 points)
- First Innings leader – 6 points (independent of final result)
- Abandoned without a ball played – 10 points
Eng:- 3 Pts, Aus:- 9 Pts
Eng:- 620/5 Dec
Eng won by Innings and 70 Runs
Eng:- 20 Pts, Aus:- 0 Pts
Aus won by 267 Runs
Eng:- 0 Pts, Aus:- 20 Pts
Eng Won by innings and 157 Runs
Eng:- 20 Pts, Aus:- 0 Pts
Eng won by innings and 83 runs
Eng:- 20 Pts, Aus:- 0 Pts
In the end of the series Eng:- 63 Pts, Aus:- 29 Pts. Since the max point any team can gain is 20 points hence these points would be divided in the same ratio. Hence Eng:- 13.70 Pts and Aus:- 6.30 Pts.
If we take the previous tour of Aus to India
India won by 1 wicket
Aus:- 6 Pts, India:- 14 Pts
India won by 7 wickets
Aus:- 0 Pts, India:- 20 Pts
At the end of the series Aus:- 6 Pts, Ind:- 34 Pts. To be honest 3 tests rather than 2 would give a more fair result. At the end of the series the main Table points would Aus:- 3 Pts, India 17 Pts.
In a similar way all the points will be added to the main table. To keep the interest in test a Win fetches much higher points than a lame draw. Also to have a good test match a innings lead also contributes to a point. If Aus V Eng play another 5 tests then the points from all 10 tests will be divided between the 2 teams. Suppose in next ashes Eng again win 4-0 and take 89 Pts while Aus just have 3 pts, then the total points are Eng (63+89)= 152 Pts, Aus:- (29+3)=32 Pts, then the 20 points would be divided as Eng:- 16.52 Pts, Aus:- 3.48 Pts.
At the end of 4 years the top 4 teams qualify for World Test Championship while 10th placed team is relegated for 4 years and 9th plays a playoff with second associate to fight a Test Spot for next 4 years.
Finally the World Test Champioship
Like any other major sports tournament the WTC should also be arranged to generate cash revenues for ICC.
The tournament will be a simple round robin league followed by 3 test final series. To ensure a fair system the matches for team should have both home and away matches. Since each team plays 3 test matches, it would be either 2 home and 1 away or 1 home and 2 away. Based on Random lots 2 Teams will get 2 Home test matches and 2 teams will just have 1 Home Test Matches.
The final should be 1 home, 1 away and 1 pre decided Neutral Venue. The teams would be allowed to make any number of changes in the squad for each test so that we have a good competition.
For Eg if India, SA, Eng and Aus qualify for the WTC and Eng and Aus get 2 home test while Ind and SA get 1 test. Hence based on random lots say the schedule comes like this
Aus V Eng (Lords)
Aus V Ind (Perth)
Aus V SA (Sydney)
Eng V India (Mumbai)
Eng V SA (Oval)
Ind V SA (Cape Town)
Then at the end of the series say Ind and SA top the table, then the finals would be
1st Final:- Ind V SA (Lords)
2nd Final:- Ind V SA (Eden Garden)
3rd Final:- Ind V SA (Durban), if required
This way all 4 nations get a part of the Test Matches and we can expect full houses at all the places. The finals are also so placed that all 3 places can also expect full houses. This will definitely be a great way of determining the Best Test Team rather Best Cricket Team in a fair way and very appealing to the broadcasters along with spectators and fans. The league of the tournament can be finished in around 25 days with 2 parallel or partial overlap test and finals in another 25 days, hence a total of 50 days to fun.