World Test Championship system favours smaller sides. Or does it?

01 August 2019 - 15:21 By Telford Vice
South Africa head coach Ottis Gibson talks to his captain Faf du Plessis during a rain delay before the Cricket World Cup match against Afghanistan in Cardiff on June 15 2019.
South Africa head coach Ottis Gibson talks to his captain Faf du Plessis during a rain delay before the Cricket World Cup match against Afghanistan in Cardiff on June 15 2019.
Image: Reuters/Andrew Boyers

The big boys of world cricket might have been done a disservice by the structure of the World Test Championship (WCT).

Or could it be that democracy has finally come to a sport obsessed with hierarchy?

The rules seem fair: teams will contest 120 points in each series‚ so victory in a game that’s part of a two-match rubber will be worth more than winning in a five-match series.

Players concussed during a match can be replaced by a like-for-like substitute. That will prompt thoughts of what a difference it might have made to South Africa’s entire 2019 men’s World Cup campaign had they been able to send in David Miller when Hashim Amla was smacked on the helmet in the fourth over of their first innings in the tournament.

Names and numbers now appear on players’ shirts‚ which earned the approval even of arch-traditionalists like Geoffrey Boycott in conversation with Jonathan Agnew on the BBC’s Test Match Special on the first day of the men’s Ashes at Edgbaston on Thursday.

“Excellent; should have been done years ago‚” Boycott said.

“It’s not for you and I — we don’t need numbers to know who people are. We can see that from the way they walk or run. That’s our job.

“But the ordinary public … ”

Teams will be docked two points for every over they fall foul of the required rate‚ which will alarm chronically tardy South Africa.

The top two teams in the standings will meet in the final at Lord’s in June 2021.

All good. But the devil is in the details.

Some sides will play significantly more two-match rubbers — where wins are worth 60 points each — than five-match affairs‚ where success translates into only 24 points per Test.

Pakistan‚ New Zealand and Sri Lanka each have five two-match series on their schedule‚ Bangladesh and West Indies four‚ India and South Africa three‚ Australia two and England just the one.

But only two five-match rubbers will be played. England are involved in both‚ against Australia and India.

So Pakistan‚ New Zealand and Sri Lanka would earn more than twice as many points — 600 — if they win all 10 of their two-match series games than the 240 England would bank for winning the same number of matches in their five-game rubbers.

Conversely‚ losing in a two-match series would mean exponentially more in the standings than going down in a five-game affair.

So perhaps cricket’s heavyweights haven’t done themselves a nasty after all.

But wouldn’t it be fun if it turns out that way.

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