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From Anurag Pandey, Belgium
The MCC has recently warned us about the potential death of Test Cricket and have called for the introduction of a World Test Championship (WTC). As was reported on Crininfo this view has been supported by many distinguished former and current players like Steve Waugh, Martin Crowe and Rahul Dravid. I have been wondering for some time what form will this WTC take and how a system will be devised to implement this. I have come up with a format which could be implemented. However it may also seem controversial as the concept of tours as we know it now will have to end.
Historically teams toured for long durations and played long series because of the distances involved and the time taken to cover these distances. All this has changed now and travel is obviously much faster but the cricket calendar is still stuck in the early part of the last century. The WTC should consist of 12 teams divided into 2 divisions of 6. Currently there are only 9 Test playing countries since Zimbabwe is suspended, however the top ranked associates can be promoted to Test status to get the full complement of 12. After every season, the bottom 2 teams will get relegated and the top 2 teams from the second division will get promoted to division 1. The initial divisions can be made on the current ICC rankings. The associate nations can also compete to get into division 2 but more on that later.
Each team in the division needs to play every other team twice in the course of a season. This means every team plays 10 test matches in a season and the total number of test matches in a season are 30. Every team gets to play 3 matches at home and 7 matches on neutral or away grounds. Every country needs to host five test matches i.e. 3 involving the home team and 2 test matches involving neutral teams. Every touring country can play a maximum of 2 games and a minimum of 1 game in any other country.
All this might sound confusing so it is best to describe it using an example. The top 6 ranked teams are Australia, South Africa, India, England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The WTC will start in England which means England should play 3 home test matches and host 2 more matches not involving them, at the same time no other country should play more than 2 games and everyone should play at least once. I have generated a few fixtures to illustrate this.
1. England v Australia 2. India v South Africa 3. England v Pakistan 4. Australia v Sri Lanka 5. England v India
England have played thrice, Australia and India twice and South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan only once.The WTC then will move on to the next host country. Let us assume the next host country is Pakistan. Again using the same rules, that Pakistan will play 3 games at home and host 2 neutral games.
6. Pakistan v Sri Lanka 7. England v Sri Lanka 8. Pakistan v South Africa 9. South Africa v Australia 10. Pakistan v India
From Pakistan the WTC moves on to India.
11. India v Australia 12. England v South Africa 13. India v Sri Lanka 14. Australia v Pakistan 15. India v England
After India the WTC moves to Sri Lanka. 16. Sri Lanka v South Africa 17. India v Pakistan 18. Sri Lanka v England 19. South Africa v Pakistan 20. Sri Lanka v Australia
From Sri Lanka the WTC heads to Australia 21. Australia v England 22. Sri Lanka v India 23. Australia v India 24. Pakistan v England 25. Australia v South Africa
And finally the WTC heads to South Africa 26. South Africa v India 27. Pakistan v Australia 28. South Africa v England 29. Pakistan v Sri Lanka 30. South Africa v Sri Lanka
At the end of this set of fixtures every team has played the other ones twice and all teams have played a total of 10 matches. A draw/tie will fetch you 1 point, a home win will fetch you 3 points and an away/neutral win will count for 4 points. The team with the most points wins the WTC and the bottom 2 are relegated to the second division. The second division will also follow the same principles regarding fixtures, tours and points.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions. How is this scheduled? The England leg from July to the middle of August, the subcontinental leg from October to the middle of December, the Australian one from the end of December till the beginning of February and South Africa during February and March. This will also leave the players free to participate in the lucrative IPL in April and May.
What happens when two of these are relegated and say the West Indies and New Zealand are part of the top 6? The scheduling is tweaked so that the main cricket playing season of these countries is included in the schedule. I know some of you might not be happy with my set of fixtures. Why do England and Australia get to play each other at home on both occasions while India and Pakistan don't get that privilege? The fixtures will change from season to season and this set of fixtures is not the definitive list. You can easily create many other variations but the rules need to be followed and obviously more rules can be added.
What then happens to ODI cricket? Ideally I would want that limited overs cricket be only played in tournaments like the World Cup or Champions Trophy but more short tri-series can be held for the teams that are playing only 1 test match on tour. Example - Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka only played one game each on the tour of England so they can easily play an ODI tri-series during this time.These games could form the part of an ODI Championship but I'm getting ahead of myself.
It would be great if something like this is implemented. An India vs Pakistan Test match in England will be amazing at the same time an Ashes test match on a Mumbai dust bowl should be equally interesting. Existing trophies like the Border - Gavaskar or the Ashes can still be won or lost based on the head to head for a particular season.
I think the time has now come to seriously pay heed to MCC's warning to save the greatest game on the planet - Test Cricket.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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