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Rethinking the ODI World Cup format

Ireland Vs England, 3rd ODI. What a game yesterday. Twin centuries by the seniors Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie with ample support from Harry Tector and the evergreen Kevin O’Brien, Ireland chased 329 against the World Cup holders, albeit without the likes of Stokes, Butler, and Archer.

That certainly does not take anything away from Ireland and breathes life into the new ODI Super League. So it is ideal to reflect on the ODI World Cup Super League (WSL) and current World Cup format now.

Does the ODI Super League and the World Cup provide enough exposure to grow cricket worldwide?

In a scathing review of the 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC) format, the late Martin Crowe wrote an article proposing an innovate format where the teams and audience both benefit while the game still grows. The 40-over World Cup would consist of a pre-tournament qualifier, a two group conference based competition involving 18 teams, followed by a best of three semi-final and a Grand Finale. Although we provide another solution, this is a good template to reference.

ODI Super League – Good or Bad?

As a whole, I think the ODI Super League is a good idea. The top 13 teams in the world play a total of 8 three-match series (4 home/ 4 away) for a total of 24 games. The top 7 sides, along with the next World Cup hosts, qualify automatically for the World Cup, while the bottom five along with 5 associate play a qualifying tournament for the final two spots. This sounds a balanced format, unlike the World Test Championships, but the WSL still has major flaws.

Currently, the 12 test-playing nations are permanent ODI members, while the next 8 teams have temporary ODI status, with only one, the Netherlands qualifying for the ODI Super league.

In what world does this make any sense? If anything, the teams with temporary ODI status should have more exposure to the game so they can prove that they deserve the status. If only one out of the 8 teams is given a chance, it is likely that the one team will get better while the others lose their ODI status and eventually, their respective golden generations.

Finally, the qualifying tournaments in cricket do not provide any value. More often then not, the Associate Teams battle out the qualifiers, where several good teams miss out due to D/L method or a couple of tight games. Even Test-playing nations like Zimbabwe and Ireland missed out on the 2019 World Cup. Simply, the system is rigged against the Associate and lower-ranked nations.

What Should Happen

The current World Cup Super League should be expanded to all 20 teams, and the qualifying tournament should be eliminated altogether. More games should be allocated to the league so each team gets to play an equal number of opponents in each ranking tier (Tier 1: Rank 1-7, Tier 2: Rank 8-14, Tier 3: Rank 15-20). At the end of the four-year period, the top 15 teams qualify for the world cup automatically.

ODI World Cup Format

Group Stage: 3 Groups, 5 Teams Each – Top 3 from group qualify to the next round (30 games)

Super 9s: 3 groups, 3 Teams Each – Groups contain teams that have not played each other earlier (9 games)

Semis + 3rd Place Play-off: Top 3 + 4th ranked team from Super 9s (3 games)

Grand Finale: 1 game


  • Each team plays at least 4 games, so neither do we see a repeat of the 2007 World Cup where both India/Pakistan were eliminated prematurely, nor do we see several one-sided affairs.
  • 15 teams participate – the game grows
  • Each match is meaningful
  • Tournament is 43 matches long, five less than current format. Not quite Martin Crowe’s 18-team vision, but still a valid proposal.


The argument for the 2019 World Cup was that it would be competitive. At the end, only about 10 out the 48 games were close, it took Sri Lanka upsetting England 2 weeks in the tournament for the world cup to open up, and the 4-pre tournament favorites made the semi-finals. If we could just detach ourselves from that final, we could sum 2019 CWC in one word— Predictable.

Meanwhile, Ireland chased 300+ vs England (2011) and West-Indies (2015), Scotland upset England on the eve of the World Cup, and Afghanistan’s rise is a shining example. What else do the Associate nations need to do?

What is your ideal ODI world cup format? Please comment below and don’t forget to share and subscribe for more!

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Sources: ESPNCricinfo

Image courtesy of caribbeancricket / Ryan / CC BY creative commons license, some rights reserved.

How to Fix Test Championship Points Table?

World Test Championship Part II: The Points Table

The Problem:

World Test Championship Points Table has serious issues which needs to be fixed, and we provide an apt solution.

The Background:

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.

The Catch:

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.

The Statistic:

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.

The Inspiration:

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.

The Proposal:

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.

  1. 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)
  2. Next, we provide criteria for home and away as displayed below:
Home and Away – Points Distribution
  • 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.

The Example

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 Test4 (8)7 (7)2 (2)2 (4)
2nd Test2 (4)4 (4)3 (3)6 (12)
3rd Test0 (0)4 (4)3 (3)8 (16)
Sess.6 (12)15 (15)8 (8)16 (32)
West Indies vs England – Session by Session

*Sess: Sessions (Points Awarded)

We then repeated the process for each test and computed the following result:

WI TotalEng TotalWI
1st Test171317+24:
2nd Test111911+0:
3rd Test7237 +0:  
West Indies vs England – Total Points

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.

The Conclusion:

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!

Please let us know if you have any suggestions in the comments below, share with friends and family, and subscribe!

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