The big news today is the announcement of the World Test Championship to take be hosted by England in 2017 and then by India in 2021. The tournament will feature four teams, and the four teams invited will be, I am assuming, the top four teams in the ICC rankings on a certain date.
Now, I must say, I really love this. To say I am excited would be an understatement. Cricket now has three marquee tournaments spread out in the calendar, which means TV revenue for the boards, and meaningful cricket for the players and the fans. Furthermore, because the World Test Championship will only feature the top four teams, it gives meaning to most Test matches that take place outside of the tournament. Dead rubbers no longer exist, and with them the meaningless matches ripe for spot fixing.
We will have to see how it all plays out, of course, and in a lot of ways teams might hold back and play for draws instead of going for wins, and the purists will of course be unhappy because it is an awful way to decide which squad is the best Test squad, but I think in the end it will be a good thing for both the format as well as the overall health of the sport.
Test cricket needed a marquee event to continue to compete with T20s and ODIs, and now it has one.
I also believe I am excited mostly because I am an American. And Americans like seasons that end with championships. The infinite nature of cricket and it’s neverending cycle of matches and tours always makes my head hurt a little. Now there is meaning, and an ending. Crown a champion, then start a new cycle. Amen.
The only issue I might have I alluded to briefly above: it’s a terrible way to crown a side the best in the world. Cricket is a marathon, not a sprint. The number one Test team in the world needs to show up and grind it out, for days at a time, in shitty conditions, 10,000 miles from home. And they need to do it over and over again before anyone thinks to call them the best in the world, despite what the ICC rankings say. South Africa is just now being seen as the real deal, for instance. It took more than just one good summer to get them to not just the top of the ICC rankings, but to gain the full respect of fans and pundits the world over as truly the best around.
If the tournament were held tomorrow, India would be the fourth ranked team in the tournament. And they could very well get red hot and South Africa get ice cold and India, the team that was thoroughly thrashed by both Australia and England in the last 18 months would all of a sudden be crowned the best Test side in the world: thanks to a few matches over a 15 day period.
Most would cry foul; all should cry foul.
It is the main argument I have with American sports: regular seasons are meaningless because all it takes is one team to get hot at the right time and the team that was winning all season loses in the early rounds of the playoffs. It’s not fair. It’s a crappy way to crown a champion.
All of that said, I stand by my earlier statement: I am excited, and I think it will be a good thing for the game and for the format.
I am looking forward to reading all of the articles and blog posts about the tournament over the next few days. Of that I am certain.