Is the World Championship really going to save Test cricket?
Amidst rumours of the Champions Trophy being continued in the wake of its successful latest edition, the ICC, in its recent meeting, decided to scrap the 50-over event and give a go ahead to the much awaited World Test Championship, confirming that the inaugural edition will take place in 2017 in England.
Explaining the move, the ICC reasoned that having a pinnacle global event for Tests will ensure that the five day format stays alive. While the intent is laudable, there are several doubts over whether the proposed World Test Championship is the way forward.
The very fact that only the top four ranked Test teams will compete in the event (though that is not confirmed yet) undermines the very idea of a ‘world’ event. Cricket is already struggling to gain global popularity and further increasing its exclusivity will not help the matter. On the other hand, the situation could also reach an impasse with respect to the itinerary, as scheduling the tournament for any more than 4 teams will be a logistic nightmare.
Another subject of dispute is the rules of qualification, which are skewed in favour of the big three – Australia, England and India. The ICC has stated that each Test team needs to play a minimum of 16 Tests in the four-year qualification period, but given the dominance of the three rich boards and the irregularities in the Future Tour Programs, there is bound to be an absence of a level playing field.
While India, Australia and England are scheduled to play each other in five match series over the next 18 months, the lesser teams like West Indies and Sri Lanka have been forced to cancel their two match series and instead play an ODI tri-series to generate revenues.
Even South Africa, the current number one team, doesn’t get to play more than three Tests in a series. There is also the case of Pakistan who haven’t played a Test match at home since that dreadful day in 2009 when terrorists opened fire on the visiting Sri Lankan team. And the lesser said about Bangladesh and Zimbabwe the better.
Such situations will lead to a disproportionate number of Test matches being played by the Test playing nations and thus raise questions about the fairness of the whole exercise.
Then there are financial issues as well. Originally scheduled to be held in 2013, the Test Championship was postponed as the sponsors wanted a more viable tournament like the Champions Trophy where the top eight teams clash in a short and crisp one-day tournament.