The cricket World Test Championship is perhaps one of the most impenetrable of all sports competitions, with playing regulations and points coring systems that are not all easily understood by any except those who devised it and those with advanced statistical training. Details can be found here for those interested. The result of this complexity is to make it poorly understood by media and public, and it does little to generate interest (and perhaps financial sponsorship) for the test match format. But it needn’t actually be so. In this short post I describe a simple format for a World Test Championship that would be easily understandable; would result in meaningful matches and series; and would produce an undisputed champion every year. There is a snowball in hells chance of anything this sensible being implemented by the ICC, but its formulation has proved to be intellectually satisfying at any rate.
The basic principle would be to divide test playing countries into divisions of three. Based on current rankings (January 2022) these would be
- Division 1 – India, New Zealand, Australia
- Division 2 – England, Pakistan, South Africa
- Division 3 – Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh
- Division 4 – Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan
Given the current political climate Afghanistan’s position in Division 4 might be untenable, and it might need to be replace by another side (perhaps Netherlands or Scotland).
The basic principle would be that the sides in each division each year would play each other in a three-match series – one home series and one away series. The position in the division would be determined by giving 2 points for a series win and one point for a draw, or, if these points are equal, on the number of matches won. The top side in each division would either be declared world champion for the year, or be promoted to the next division, whilst the bottom side would be relegated. It would be no more complicated than that.
Essentially this would give a baseline for the number of test matches per year of six per team, which ought to be achievable. It does not preclude other series (such as the Ashes) being played as required – and indeed the world championship games could be designated tests in, say, a five-match series. Each team would play different teams in succeeding years, apart from the top two in Division 1 and the bottom two in Division 4.
The main requirement would be a need for flexibility in arranging fixtures on an annual basis, rather than as part of the longer-term future tours programme. This may be easier if designated periods were kept free from other series. The real advantage of such a method would be that it would greatly increase the profile of the long form game, with each of the series that are played being meaningful in terms of promotion and relegation, and gives the possibility of the championship finding a significant sponsor.