It’s a campaign that started when the pandemic was a distant nightmare and it is about to wrap up at a time when the world looks much different thanks to the rampaging novel coronavirus. The story of how the first edition of cricket’s World Test Championship (WTC) itself progressed captures all the drama and grit that the longest format of the game is known for. After a process that lasted close to two years, Virat Kohli is set to lead India out against Kane Williamson’s New Zealand in the final match of the competition that is to be held from June 18-22 in England’s Southampton. Here’s all you need to know.
What Is The World Test Championship?
The International Cricket Council (ICC) flagged off the maiden Test competition in August 2019, the idea being to infuse life and inject greater audience interest in the format at a time when T20 has become the most visible and prime-time friendly version of the game.
To be sure, big ticket Test series like the Ashes between Australia and England or the Border-Gavaskar Trophy for which India take on Australia are widely followed, but the same cannot be said about all the Test cricket that is played around the world. Having a championship brings a common thread to the Test calendar and it was hoped it would lead audiences to follow all the bilateral series more closely.
How Many Teams Participated?
Nine of the ICC’s 12 full member countries — Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies — were in the fray to clinch the crown of being the best Test side on the planet. Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland, the remaining full members were kept out of the contest that had a two-year run time.
What Was The Points System Like?
Each of the nine teams in the WTC was originally slated to have played 6 Test series each, three at home and three away. Now, given that all Test series do not have a uniform number of matches — the Ashes is a five-match rubber while the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has four Tests — there was a points system that ICC introduced to bring parity in scores.
There was a total of 120 points up for grabs in each series. So, in a five-Test series, each match was worth 24 points while there were 30 points up for grabs in a four-match series. If a match was drawn then the two teams would get a third of the points for a win, which would be 8 in a five-match series. In case a match ended in a tie, then both teams were to get half the points for a win. But that was the points system envisaged when the pandemic was yet to hit. After the novel coronavirus emerged on the scene and torpedoed normal life across
the world, a new scoring system had to be devised to determine which two teams would play the final.
How Did The Pandemic Affect The Competition?
The six Test series that each team was supposed to have played in the original plan would have meant that it would be their scores out of a possible 720 (120 points x 6) that would determine how they placed on the table. However, the novel coronavirus-induced lockdowns shook up the schedule and many teams were left staring at cancelled, or postponed, Tests. That saw ICC devising a percentage system to decide the two finalists.
Called the ‘Percentage of Points’, or PoP, system, it tracked the proportion of points that a team managed to corner out of the total available to it from the matches it did manage to play. Now, while India managed to play all the six series it was supposed to, New Zealand, the other finalist, could only feature in five Test series.
How Did India End On The Points Table?
The only side apart from England and Sri Lanka that completed its schedule of 6 Test series, India topped the points table with a 72.2% PoP. Out of the possible 720 points that Virat Kohli’s men could win, they succeeded in cornering 520. New Zealand were close behind with 420 points out of a possible 600, or 70% PoP.
India’s WTC outing began in August 2019 with its tour of West Indies. The visitors won both the matches in the two-Test series before hosting South Africa for a three-Test series back in India, in which it managed to blank the opponents. Then came two Tests against Bangladesh in India that ended in a whitewash of the visitors. Then came India’s only series loss in the WTC as New Zealand blanked Virat Kohli’s men in the two Tests they played against the hosts.
It was in the remaining two series that India put in a strong showing, scripting history as they prevailed 2-1 over Australia in a four-match series Down Under before getting the better of England at home, winning 3-1 in another four-match rubber.