Good Idea, but Needs Structural Improvement Part I: The Marquee Series
World Test Championship – The Problem:
The World Test Championship is a decent idea needs improvement. We propose a structure where the imbalance created by the Big 3 is reduced.
We discuss the imbalance created by the Big 3-England, Australia, and India through ‘marquee’ series like the 5-Test Ashes, a possible solution, and implications of this structure.
After a test match begins, one of my friends usually asks me, “Remind me again, is this match considered as a part of the WTC?” Although the current system has improved contextualizing Test cricket, there is a bias on ‘marquee’ series’ like the Ashes at the expense of creating a balanced environment. There should be a competitive environment where each team plays each opponent, and the lesser-ranked teams as well as the newest entrants—Ireland and Afghanistan—become competitive.
Currently the top 9 teams will compete for a total of 75 matches, and the newest entrants plus Zimbabwe will not participate. England will play 22 matches, Australia-19, India-18, South Africa-16, West Indies-15, Bangladesh and New Zealand-14, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka-13. The Ashes and India-England are scheduled as 5-match series while India-Australia and South Africa-England are 4-match series.
On the other hand, most of New Zealand, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka play 2-match series. Furthermore, not all series count, even an enthralling rivalry like New Zealand vs England in 2019. At this point, the Future Tour Programme (FTP) and the World Test Championship are two separate entities, where games can be accommodated to the FTP if both playing countries agree. In order to better contextualize the game and decrease an overkill of cricket, the FTP and WTC need to merge.
We propose creating a structure where rivalries and marquee series are expanded. So, how would this work? Each team will play 3 major series in the following categories: Marquee (M), Semi-Marquee (S), and Regular (R). These Marquee games would be in a 5-4-3 format or a 4-4-4 format for a total of 12 games. All other series will be comprised of 2 games each.
For example, England will keep the 5-match ‘marquee’ Ashes versus Australia, and play a 4-match ‘semi-marquee’ series versus India. Similarly, Australia will play 4-match series versus India apart from the Ashes. At this point, both Australia and England have 9 scheduled games, while India have played 8. To accommodate the imbalance and avoid overkill, India will play another semi-marquee 4-match series versus South Africa, while Australia and England will play a 3-match ‘regular’ series versus another team.
Here is an example of how we can divide these marquee games among the test-playing nations.
- England: Australia (M), India (S), West Indies (R) : 5-4-3
- Australia: England (M), India (S), New Zealand (R): 5-4-3
- India: England (S), Australia (S), South Africa (S) : 4-4-4
- South Africa: New Zealand (M), India (S), Sri Lanka (R): 5-4-3
- New Zealand: South Africa (M), Pakistan (S), Australia (R): 5-4-3
- Pakistan: New Zealand (S), West Indies (S), Sri Lanka (S): 4-4-4
- West Indies: Bangladesh (M), Pakistan (S), England (R): 5-4-3
- Sri Lanka: Afghanistan (M), Pak (S), South Africa (R): 5-4-3
- Bangladesh: West Indies (M), Zimbabwe (S), Afghanistan (R): 5-4-3
- Afghanistan: Sri Lanka (M), Ireland (S), Bangladesh (R): 5-4-3
- Ireland: Afghanistan (S), Zimbabwe (S): 4-4
- Zimbabwe: Ireland (S), Bangladesh (S): 4-4
Let’s face it, with the advent of the Big 3, Test cricket and viewership in England, Australia, and India are alive and inter-rivalries kept intact. The idea is that instead of scrapping the Ashes, we keep the traditional rivalries alive and encourage new ones, especially for lower-ranked teams. This will have profound impact.
More spectators will fill the stadium (presuming cricket will be resumed everywhere), neutral viewers will tune in on these matches, and a competitiveness will rise within new rivals. When teams like West Indies and Sri Lanka play marquee series against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, this provides newer teams the chance to elevate their game. Hence, the distribution of these marquee series will have broad implications and improve the overall quality of the World Test Championship.
Do you think this is a viable option? What are some of your opinions on how to improve the World Test Championship? Please comment below and let us know!
That’s all for now! Continue reading ahead for Part II of the series, World Test Championship: How Can The Points Table Be Improved.