After years of deliberation and planning, a premier tournament for the Test format is finally going to see the light of day. The World Test Championship (WTC) officially kicks off with the first Ashes Test that begins on August 1.
The WTC will comprise 9 top Test-playing nations, as decided by the ICC Test team rankings on March 31, 2018. Of the 11 Test teams in the world all except Afghanistan and Ireland are taking part. The Championship would last for around two years, culminating with the final, slated to be played in June 2021 in England.
The championship won't be played in a league format as there isn't enough time in the calendar for any of the nations to play every other team, home and away. As a result, each team is obliged to play three home series and three away series. Which teams they decide to play would depend on the respective cricket boards and their arrangements.
The series that would form a part of the WTC can range from two-Test affairs to those containing five games. The two teams that will have the most points at the end of the mandatory six series will get into the final, likely to be played at Lord's.
The points system worked out for this tournament is also very interesting. Every series would provide sides with a chance of winning a maximum of 120 points. For points per match, 120 would be divided by the number of matches in the series. A tie will earn both teams half that number of points while a draw would lead to 1/3 of the points per match being earned by the sides.
To illustrate this better, let us take an example. If there is a three-match series between two teams, then, points available for each match would be 120 divided by three, i.e. 40. The winner of a match would get 40 points while a tie would get both teams 20 and a draw 13.
Test series outside WTC
Not every Test series played in the next two years will be considered part of WTC. Those series involving Afghanistan and Ireland will be outside the scope of the championship.
Since this tournament would consist of bilateral series played in different Test playing nations, channels and networks holding the rights to telecast cricket in those territories will also telecast matches of this tournament. However, the final, which will be played in England, will be broadcasted by the networks owning rights to ICC tournaments.
Will the tournament succeed?
The chances of WTC becoming popular are good but not perfect. The biggest aim of ICC is to make sure that every Test series has a context. As of now, there are only a few series, like the Ashes or Border-Gavaskar Trophy, that draw major attention. This league aims to ensure that even a series such as West Indies vs India, otherwise not a high-profile contest, would have a definite context and value. Whether the ordinary fans warm up to it or not remains to be seen.