How to Fix Test Championship Points Table?
World Test Championship Part II: The Points Table
World Test Championship Points Table has serious issues which needs to be fixed, and we provide an apt solution.
New Zealand: Played-7, won-3, lost-4. South Africa: Played-7, won-1, lost-6.
Looks pretty close, right? Wrong. New Zealand are currently sitting in 4th place of the World Test Championship (WTC) table with 180 points while South Africa is languishing near the bottom with just 24 points. Even though these two teams are separated by two losses, South Africa are behind by a seemingly insurmountable 156 points.
The number of points awarded in the WTC fluctuates depending on the number of matches played per series. A 2-match series is allotted 60 points per game, while 3, 4, and 5 match-series are awarded 40, 30, and 24 points respectively. Although dead-rubbers are eliminated in this format, some games now are worth more than others.
England lost the first test of the Ashes and the Wisden trophy, but it did not cost them much since the series consisted of more than 2 games. Teams playing 2-match series cannot afford the same degree of flexibility.
First, an all-or-nothing point system for a 5-day match is not justified. Test matches are enthralling to watch because of their ebb and flow. One Stuart Broad session can completely turn the series around or Faf Du Plessis-esque blockathon for multiple sessions might save a test match. Therefore, session-by-session match-ups need to be considered, not only the overall result. Second and more importantly, we need to incorporate home and away matches properly.
India and Australia are classic examples. Over the last decade, India has won 36 matches, drawn 9, and lost merely 3 at home from the 48 played. However, they only won 17, drew 12, and lost 26 from the 55 played abroad (even this is skewed by away games played at the subcontinent). Similarly, Australia has a 36-9-9 record at home versus 17-7-25 away.
It has always been tough to win abroad, but in the last decade, the situation has worsened. In the 2010s, every country had a win-loss (W/L) ratio less than 1, meaning they lost more away than they won. Contrastingly, in the 2000s, Australia and South Africa had W/L greater than 1, while India and England were close with 0.8 and 0.739 W/L respectively. In order to better incentivize winning abroad, more emphasis should be provided on winning away games.
Last week, we discussed how the various ‘marquee’ series’ were skewing the World Test Championship (WTC). We proposed that every team should be allocated exactly 24 games against nine different opponents over a period of two and a half years. Each team plays a total of six 2-match series along with 5-4-3 or 4-4-4 distribution against the remaining three opponents. Now that each team is on a level-playing field with an equal number of games, we can move on to solve the issues plaguing the point system.
We will take inspiration from the other major innovation the ICC came up with apart from WTC to contextualize the cricket calendar—the ODI World Cup Super League (WSL). The points system for the Super League provides a more competitive environment than the WTC.
For instance, in the WSL,10 points are assigned for a win, 5 for tie or no-result, and 0 for a loss. On the other hand, for a 3-match test series, winning constitutes 40 points, tie 20 points, draw 13 points, and defeat 0 points. Theoretically, bouncing back from a 3-match series loss is possible in the WSL, unlike a similar scenario in the WTC.
So how do we fix this? We need to combine the ODI Super League system, provide a mechanism for home versus away, and distribute points across sessions. The overall points distribution for one match will consist of (1) base point system like WSL adjusted on a home/away basis, and (2) points awarded per session of a test match.
Here is our proposal. Note, each team plays 24 matches total-12 home and 12 away.
- Every test match has a maximum of 15 sessions (3 sessions – 5 days).
- Session Won: 2 Points, Even/Wash-Out: 1 Point, Session Lost: 0 Points
- If the match finishes before the last session on the 5th day, the winning team is awarded the points for the remaining sessions
- Points Possible Per Match: 30
- Home – Max Points Possible: 360 (12*30)
- Away – Max Points Possible: 360 (12*30)
- Next, we provide criteria for home and away as displayed below:
- Maximum points for Home team: 360 +192 = 552 points.
- Maximum points for Away team: 360 + 288 = 648 points.
- Total possible points: 552 + 648 = 1200
- Average Points/Match: 1200/24 = 50 points per match.
As a demonstration, we take the recently concluded West-Indies tour of England series, which ended in 1-2. In the current format, West Indies got 40 points, while England got 80. We looked back at the scorecards in detail and allocated the points per session:
|1st Test||4 (8)||7 (7)||2 (2)||2 (4)|
|2nd Test||2 (4)||4 (4)||3 (3)||6 (12)|
|3rd Test||0 (0)||4 (4)||3 (3)||8 (16)|
|Sess.||6 (12)||15 (15)||8 (8)||16 (32)|
*Sess: Sessions (Points Awarded)
We then repeated the process for each test and computed the following result:
|WI Total||Eng Total||WI|
|2nd Test||11||19||11+0: |
|3rd Test||7||23||7 +0: |
Altogether, even though 59-87 is not as close as the 40-80 from the earlier system, it is still much better and keeps the hope of a comeback alive. Had West-Indies survived the final session of the second test, they would have earned a few points in the session-category as well as received 12 points for the draw in an away match, thereby closing the gap.
- In the 45 sessions during the series, West-Indies won 6, England won 16, and 23 were either evenly matched or washed out.
- West Indies were playing for a maximum of 54 points per test, while England were playing for a maximum of 46 points per test.
Is this system perfect? Not quite, but it is definitely an improvement on the current system. But imagine, teams trying to survive an extra session or opposition teams bowling aggressively to finish the game in an early session due to this extra incentive. This system is not as simple as the current format, but at least it is not as complex as the D-L system!
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Stay tuned for Part III coming up – where we redo the WTC Points Table with our method and compare it with the skewed table currently in place.
Image Courtesy: Leighhubbard, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons