“Also, away games should be awarded more because the beauty of cricket lies in the ability of a cricketer to adapt to all kinds of situations. Unlike in football where the conditions do not matter, cricket is a test for all touring teams, and hence, it is imperative that sides get awarded more for winning in unfamiliar by-lanes”
Even as the Test format has gone from being the Holy Grail in cricket to merely existing, the International Cricket Council announced the induction of the Test Championship in cricket, starting after the World Cup ends next year. In an attempt to bring “context” into the format, the ICC mulled Martin Crowe’s idea of the Championship to check the flagging interest in the game.
While the ODIs and the T20Is all look ahead to the World Championship after a gap of four years, the only incentive in the Test arena remains the Test Mace, which is handed over to the number 1-ranked side after a year. At times, the winner of the Mace goes unnoticed as the criteria to award a team with the sole position remains debatable.
It so often happens that a team ends up as the numero uno side after playing most of their matches at home. Last year, the Indian Cricket Team played England, Australia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the familiar territory, with their only overseas commitment being the series against West Indies. The Mace, that was handed over to Virat Kohli at the start of the year, remained replete with question marks as the Indian side had not yet been tested in full capacity. The series loss against South Africa in the Rainbow Nation only heightened the doubts, and hence, the Championship was anticipated with bated breath.
The schedule of the proposed move will ensure fairness. A side will play six series (three home and three abroad), with each match counting towards the ultimate glory. The top-four teams will play the semi-finals, from where two will go on to fight it out for the title of the Test Championship in June 2021. With equal away and home matches and with each side expected to rough it out against the toughest conditions, the Championship ensures transparency, something that the Test Mace, which does not consider the conditions that a side has played in over the year, does not take into account.
Over the years, while the selected hands have held the Test format aa t sole position, a majority have moved away from the “boring” format to the more exciting version of T20. As the legends walked away from the game in quick succession, the ‘transition period’ hampered the quality of Test cricket, with the newer stars unable to replicate the feats of the stalwarts in a short duration. Hence, with the competition levels decreasing and the games hardly lasting five days, both the spectators and the broadcasters have pulled away from the format.
As the broadcasters have bet on a five-day game, they lose out if the match does not go the distance. Fans hardly see a reason to travel so far for a game that will end in two days, unless it is the Ashes or the match involves India. The ongoing series between West Indies and Sri Lanka is being played at sparse stadia, with the fans all around finding no reason to be present during a series that will soon be forgotten.
But with each game, each hour and each session holding importance in the Test Championship, fans will have a superior motive to be present at the ground!
The challenges awaiting the Test Championship
However, with each new beginning comes its own set of challenges. With each home game carrying weightage, home associations can be guilty of tweaking the pitches according to their own strengths. While a certain amount of home advantage is what will make the home-away games so exciting, undue modifications will take away from the whole purpose of this tournament. Hence, the ICC will have to be wise in appointing curators, who will overlook the preparations of the track and ensure that the home-curators do not prepare dust bowls or green tops beyond necessary.
Another point that needs to be sorted out is the points system. Will teams that gain a lead of 150 points get the same points as teams who take a slender 3-run lead? Will the points be awarded according to how mighty the performance has been or be fixed, no matter the dominance? If the latter is true and the points awarded to every lead – small or big- is same, then teams will be happier in just romping away with a lead in the game.
Also, away games should be awarded more, because the beauty of cricket lies in the ability of a cricketer to adapt to all kinds of situations. Unlike in football where the conditions do not matter, cricket is a test for all touring teams, and hence, it is imperative that sides get awarded more for winning in unfamiliar by-lanes.
Keeping in mind the weather patterns, the scheduling will need to be done right as well because the last thing that the tournament will need is a number of wash-outs that can hamper a team’s performance in the Test Championship.