The World Championship of Test cricket: How it works
James Anderson says World Test Championship is a "brilliant initiative"; India's Virat Kohli looking to win it...
By Charles Colvile
Last Updated: 01/08/19 12:12pm
The World Championship of Test cricket is a concept that has been a long time coming.
The need to make Test cricket relevant for a modern audience is something the ICC have been well aware of for a number of years.
Back in 2003, they introduced the ICC Test Championship, which ever since then has seen the Championship mace presented to the World's No 1 Test side - along with a healthy cheque - to whichever side is top of the world rankings on April 1.
The weakness with this format, though, is that the points system has been very hard to understand and there is no consistency in who plays who in the year, hence the ICCs desire to come up with a formula that was more user friendly.
The World Championship was first proposed back in 2009 and was meant to happen four years later but that was cancelled, as was another attempt in 2017.
Finally, a decade after it was first mooted, it is here.
So how does it work?
The top nine teams in the Test match rankings will play six series each - three home and three away - against mutually chosen opponents over a two-year cycle.
For England, those six series will be the Ashes against Australia, this winter's trip to South Africa plus home series against the West Indies and Pakistan and away ones against Sri Lanka and India.
However, their two series against New Zealand and Bangladesh, which are also scheduled for between now and 2021, will not count.
The length of each series can also vary, which leads to arguably one of the potential weaknesses in the system.
As things are currently scheduled, England will play 22 games because they routinely play five-match series against the likes of Australia and India. Sri Lanka and Pakistan on the other hand will only play 13.
How are the points awarded?
Each series will have a maximum of 120 points available to be won, irrespective of how many Tests are in it.
Hence in a two-Test series (the shortest they can be) each win is worth 60 points and the draw 20, but in a five-match series, like the Ashes, a win will only yield 24 points and the draw just eight.
Come what may though by early 2021, all nine teams will have played their six series and the top two in the table will go onto to contest a one-off 'Final' at Lord's that June.
What do the players make of it?
England seamer James Anderson: "Test cricket is the pinnacle of our sport. It is the very essence of cricket and the majority of players want to strive to play the purist form of the game. The ICC World Test Championship is another brilliant initiative for the sport, adding context and relevance to every Test series. Every Test matters, but even more so now."
India skipper Virat Kohli: "We are awaiting the World Test Championship with great enthusiasm as it adds context to the longest format of the game. Test cricket is very challenging and coming out on top in the traditional form is always highly satisfying. The Indian team has done really well in recent years and will be fancying its chances in the championship."
Australia captain Tim Paine: "The World Test Championship is a fantastic initiative. We love playing Test cricket, it's the pinnacle for us, remains hugely popular in Australia and we're fortunate that it enjoys great support at home among players, the media and the public.
"To wear the baggy green is the ultimate for all Australian cricketers and if the World Test Championship helps to ensure that all countries make Tests a high priority then that has to be good news for the game in general and the continuing health of the format in particular."
South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis: "For the last while we have longed to have something to play for that gives proper context to Test cricket. The stakes are high because every series matters. It's refreshing and the players are looking forward to this new chapter.
"The players who play all three formats will attest to the fact that Test cricket is the purest format of the game, still the number-one format. The younger generation may enjoy the hustle and bustle of T20 cricket but when a Test match goes down to the final hour on the fifth day, that entertainment is hard to beat."
Watch every ball of the 2019 Ashes live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from Thursday.