ICC outlines points plan for Test championship

Game's governing body ponders points allocation for wins and losses and a weighting system for new Test Championsip

Andrew Ramsey

31 May 2018, 08:06 AM AEST

The ICC has fleshed out further potential detail surrounding the proposed Test Championship scheduled to begin next year, indicating a preference that points be earned for each individual match rather than be allocated to teams for series' wins.

While the methodology that underpins the Test Championship table and the means by which the biennial winner is decided remains a work in progress, the ICC's influential Cricket Committee has recommended that points be apportioned on a game-by-game basis.

That would ensure that dead-rubber matches gain significance with the same number of points on offer as for 'live' fixtures, and drawn results could yield both teams a reduced share of the points on offer for each match to heighten incentives for sides facing final-day defeat.

There is no suggestion that victories away from home should carry any extra reward other than kudos.

If the points system, as recommended, was applied to every multi-Test series played over the past two years then South Africa and India would play-off for the Championship crown while Australia would have finished fifth and England sixth.

It is understood that previous suggestions for an equitable points system included allocating a set total (eg 100 points) for each series regardless of the number of matches played, with the overall winner to pocket a majority of those (eg 60 points) and the remaining 40 to be dispersed depending on individual match results.

However, in expressing their view for match outcomes only to figure in the points system, the Cricket Committee has shown that the prestige of winning a series will be restricted to the trophy on offer with Championship rankings decided solely on a game-by-game basis.

In attempting to ensure that nations who play fewer Tests over the course of the two-year championship cycle are not disadvantaged, this seemingly raises the potential for shorter Test series of two or three matches carrying greater weight than those of four or five matches, such as The Ashes.

The ICC's Cricket Committee, which met in Mumbai this week under the chairmanship of former India Test spinner and coach Anil Kumble, also indicated that the play-off between the two top-ranked teams at the end of each two-year period should be scheduled with a reserve day in case weather intervened.

"Based on the principle of simplicity and every match needing to count, the Committee recommended that points should only be awarded for each match and not a series win," the ICC announced in a post-meeting communique.

"As part of this, it was proposed that there was a draw-win ratio of 0.33:1, so a draw gives each team a third of the available points.

"It was also agreed to propose a reserve day for the ICC World Test Championship final to enable any time lost through bad weather to be made up."

Those recommendations will be put before the Chief Executives of the Council's member nations when they meet next month as part of the ICC's annual conference in Dublin, with the concept scheduled to be launched in July next year at which time Australia will contest the Ashes in the UK.

It is understood that once a recommendation for the points structure is endorsed by the CE's Committee, it will not require ratification by the full ICC Board.

Among the myriad problems associated with introducing an equitable means of constructing a league table are the disparities of scheduling, with bilateral agreements between competing countries resulting in Test series that currently vary from one to five matches in duration.

The ICC has foreshadowed it will not mandate a standard length for Test series to enable campaigns such as the Ashes to continue as five-match events, but will ensure that - under the terms of the Championship - competing teams contest three home series and three away over the two-year playing period.

Those series must contain a minimum of two Test matches, and in its initial incarnation the Championship will not include recently promoted Test nations Afghanistan and Ireland nor trouble-plagued Zimbabwe, who have played just 22 Tests in the past 13 years.

Given the fluctuating nature of scheduling that results from nations juggling three international formats as well as ICC tournaments and domestic T20 franchise events across each two-year stint, any points system will need to recognise inconsistencies in each team's Test match quota.

That will require a 'weighted' points system, with the Cricket Committee indicating it could be a uniform total of points on offer across each series, with the total available points for each Test dictated by the number of matches in the series.

For example, if the total points on offer tally 100 then a five-Test campaign would yield 20 points for each victory while a two-match series would see 50 points up for grabs in each contest.

By noting a wins:draws ratio of 3:1, the Committee has also flagged that should no result be reached, both teams involved will share one-third of the total points on offer for that match.

Thus equating to 6.67 points apiece for a drawn result in a five-Test series, increasing incrementally up to 16.67 each per draw in a two-Test series.

However, under that system a team that managed a win and a draw from a two-Test campaign (a staple for smaller Test outfits such as New Zealand and the West Indies) would notionally pocket more points (66.67) than a team that fought out a 2-0 result containing three draws in order to hang on to the Ashes (60 points).

Retrospectively fitting the points system outlined above to all Test series of two-games or more (excluding those featuring Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan, as well as the England-Pakistan series currently in progress) played over the past two years would see South Africa installed as the top-ranked Test nation.

They would therefore contest the Test Championship crown with India in a five-day (with the option of a sixth if weather-affected) match at a venue to be decided, with Lord's in London favoured to host the showpiece event in the initial stages of the concept.

But those standings, under which Australia ranked fifth and England sixth behind New Zealand and Sri Lanka, are compromised because of the variation in the number of Test series each team played over the past two years.

New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa all took part in eight multi-Test series in the two years to the end of May 2018, Australia, England and India were involved in seven while Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies played just six.

As a result, the final points standings for the preceding 24 months if employing the sample method being floated as an option for the Test Championship beginning July next year would be:

1) South Africa - 555.5 2) India - 497.2 3) New Zealand - 405.6 4) Sri Lanka - 338.9 5) Australia - 328.3 6) England - 271.7 7) Pakistan - 183.3 8) Bangladesh - 166.7 9) West Indies - 113.3

By comparison, the current Test rankings according to the ratings points system utilised by the ICC across all formats are:

1) India - 125 2) South Africa - 112 3) Australia - 106 4) New Zealand - 102 5) England - 98 6) Sri Lanka - 94 7) Pakistan - 87 8) Bangladesh - 75 9) West Indies - 67 10) Zimbabwe - 2