The shift to a ranking based on the percentage of points contested, which came about thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, will extend into the second (2021-23) edition of the World Test Championship, with one caveat. Instead of 120 points being available over each series, independent of the length of the series, every Test match will now carry an equal number of points. At the end of the WTC cycle, teams will be ranked based on the percentage of points accrued over all the matches they have played.
The above points system was revealed by Geoff Allardice, the ICC's acting chief executive officer, during a media chat organised by the ICC on Monday. As a consequence of several series in the first cycle of the WTC being postponed due to the pandemic, the ICC altered the points system last November, deciding to rank teams based on the percentage of points won from the series they contested.
That shift allowed New Zealand, which was behind India, Australia and England in the points tally at the time, to leapfrog those teams and become the first team to make the inaugural WTC final after consecutive home series wins over West Indies and Pakistan. India's historic 2-1 win in Australia, followed by a 3-1 victory at home against England, allowed them to book the second finalist's slot and eventually finish on top of the WTC table.
Four days before the WTC final, Allardice said the ICC had decided to stick to the percentage-of-points-won methodology as it provided twin benefits. "We are going to stick with the percentage-of-points-won method to rank teams," Allardice said. "When we looked at the first 12 months of the competition you had teams on a number of points, but it was all relative to how many series they had played. So one of the ways to compare teams on an ongoing basis is what proportion of the points that have been available in the matches they played have been actually won. And that percentage served us well in the second half of the Championship.
"The other thing is if we are using the percentage of points won we can put a standardised number of points per Test match. So it doesn't matter if it is a two-Test series or a five-Test series, the same number of points will be available for each match that's played, but every team would be judged on the percentage of those points it wins, not on total."
The alteration in the points system was originally devised and recommended by the ICC Cricket Committee, which is headed by former India captain Anil Kumble. However, not everyone was impressed by the ICC's move. Ahead of the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy last year, India captain Virat Kohli said the amended points system was "confusing". India had played four out of their six scheduled series in the WTC cycle at that point and were leading the table with 360 points. However, Australia, who had earned 296 points from three series, toppled India after the revision, with 82.22 percentage points (296 out of 360) compared to the latter's 75 (360 out of 480).
Allardice understood the critics' view, but said the ICC had had no option but to change the system. "The principle that we had when we created the competition was that every match in a series that was played as part of the Test Championship should count. The point system was also to try and reflect that a two-match series is worth the same as a five-match series. That was trying to make sure that everyone was playing for the same number of points in total, everyone was playing for the same number points home and away.
"One of things that happened during this cycle is that it became evident that not everyone was going to complete their six series as a result of some of the postponements due to Covid. So we left the final in the spot in the calendar where it was originally scheduled. But because we are going to have teams playing uneven number of series we needed to tweak to the points system to try and make it as fair as possible and to make sure it reflected the matches that they did play rather than too heavily influenced by they didn't play.
"As it turned out it was a fair system. New Zealand didn't play one series as a result of the Covid disruption las year, but they've still been able to qualify for the final through the strength of their performances in other series. So we prefer not to have changed the points system in the middle of a tournament but due to the circumstances of Covid and the need to ensure that the best two teams got to the final we thought it was necessary that it was approved at the end of last year."
Best-of-three final not "realistic"
Allardice also said the suggestion of India coach Ravi Shastri to have a best-of-three final to determine the winner of the second edition of the WTC - was a good one but not "realistic", due to the lack of a free window for such an event in the cricket calendar.
"In a perfect world a three-Test series would be a great way to decide the World Test Championship," Allardice said. "But the reality (of) the international cricket schedule is we are just not going to have [a situation where] blocking out a month or so for all the teams in the tournament for the final is realistic. That's why one-match final was decided upon. Why it is quite exciting is because it brings something new. Here were are - we've got a one-off Test match to decide the best team in the world over this two-year cycle."
Draw "certainly a valid result"
Allardice was asked whether it was fair on the two finalists in case the match were to end in a draw due to rain interruptions. Announcing the WTC prize money on Monday, the ICC said both teams would share the Test mace, and the pot of USD 2.4 million, in case of a draw.
"One of the idiosyncrasies of Test cricket is that the draw is a result," Allardice said. "One of things while talking about the structure of the competition was to we didn't want to start the final with one team having to win and one team having to draw, so both teams start on Friday even. They have five playing days to get a result. We have set aside a reserve day so that if time is lost during those five days it can be further made up on the reserve day. It isn't a six-day Test match.
"And if after those five days the result is a draw, then the view was that the fitting result is that the Championship is shared. Whether we like it or not a draw is certainly a valid result in Test cricket."
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo