Saturday, 11 June 2011

Test Championship

As a fan of test cricket, I often feel that it is a shame that the pinnacle of world cricket is an ODI world cup. I've often wondered if it would be possible to have a test world cup.

It always seemed ridiculous. There are three problems.

1. It will take too long.
Test cricket is a long game. The ODI world cup seems to take forever, how much longer would a test version take.

2. Diversity of results.
There are three possible results (excluding a very unlikely tie), but these results don't always tell the full story. What would happen, for example if there was rain for a day of a final.

3. Home ground advantage.
A big part of the interest in test cricket is watching how teams cope with foreign conditions. There is supposed to be an advantage for the home team, and there normally is. (Except in the disgusting case where NZ cricket gave in to the BCCI and prepared Indian pitches for the last Indian tour. - I'm still very grumpy about this)

So I've put some thought into it, and have come up with what I believe to be a realistic system that counters these three problems.

There is currently a test championship, but it doesn't really mean anything. Every 4 years or so every team plays every other team home and away. During the course of this the results are compiled and a ranking is worked out. Currently India lead this, ahead of South Africa and England.

The idea is to use these rankings to seed the teams for a 1 month test cricket championship. This championship is played in a different country every 4 years, (preferably rotating through the test playing nations) The teams involved would be the home nation, and the other seven highest teams. The eight teams would be broken into two groups of 4, based on the rankings, with 1, 4, 5 & * in one pool, and the other 4 in another pool.

The teams would play each other once, and the top team from each pool would progress through to play each other in the final.

There are many different options for points systems for first class competitions, and one of these could be agreed on for the competition. I have my own favourite, but these details could be worked out later.

To make this tournament work well a host country would need to have at least 6 test capable grounds, but 7 would be ideal. This would mean that there was always at least 6 days between two matches on the same ground, allowing the groundsman plenty of time to prepare an adequate pitch. Ideally the schedule would be set up so that the travel time between matches was not too exhausting (ie. don't have a team playing somewhere like Perth, Guyana or Chennai one game, then 2 days later in Hobart, Kingston or Ahmedabad respectively).

I put together a schedule for an ideal competition, where each team had at least 2 days between matches (normally 3 or 4) and each ground had at least 6 days between matches. With 7 grounds this took a total of 29 days. This is about as long as an average test tour, and we know that audiences rarely get fatigued by a tour, so it would be likely that the audiences would not find this too long.

By using the current ranking system to seed the teams it gives an advantage to teams that have played consistently well over the past 4 years, and it also has the incentive that at least one team misses out on the tournament each time, so there is always something to play for for the bottom teams. It also gives each team a chance of a series at home against every other team. These series will mean something, and as a result the concept of a dead rubber will disappear. No match is dead when ranking points are on offer.

So this concept deals with the three objections this way:

Too long: The whole tournament will be over inside a month.
Accounting for draws etc: Having a short round robin helps with this. Also having a NARPW component to the points system will encourage teams to declare early.
Home ground advantage: Rotating the host will mean that this advantage will be shared, and making the preceding results contribute to the seedings means that every test match counts.

What are your thoughts?

As an after thought I ran a sort of virtual competition by useing the last result between each team as the competition match. The final was won by India over England on first innings, with the curious situation of Dhoni bowling the last over with Laxman having the gloves. South Africa missed out on the final by not beating West Indies by enough to get past England.


  1. Hey Mykuhl,

    Nice work. 29 days is not long at all. Honestly, if so many teams are playing together, then even 2 months of test cricket will not be boring in my honest opinion.

    Yes, the fans who only occasionally watch the game, might get bored. For them, a month is the appropriate length. Also liked the idea of rotating the hosts and result of the virtual competition :)

    Cheers !

  2. There was this episode in Time Out with Harsha some months back that talked about this.

    Sanjay Manjraker suggested something similar to what you're saying. But rather than have all 8 teams play, he suggested having the top 4 teams play. So the 4 years is more like a qualifier.

    So the tournament works with 4 test matches. The number 1 vs 2 and 3 vs 4. The format he suggested was similar to the IPL format this year so 1 and 2 have distinct advantages of having 2 matches to qualify. The matches will be
    1 v 2, 3 v 4, (loser of 1 v 2) v (winner of 3 v 4) and the final this is real easy stuff....

  3. While I'm in favour of a test championship, I'm not sure this is an improvement over what has been proposed (top-4 teams play semis then final). Mostly because at least that offers some competition (and therefore context) for a place in the championship. Whereas 5 teams at least are guaranteed to go into an 8-team competition.

    On a more general note, the three problems you cite are actually a product of a very specific format (championship finals) that don't necessarily have to apply. If you include qualifying (and you should) the World Cup is (was) actually a two year event, that culminates in a tournament. Any test championship should consider ALL the prospective stages. As well as try and have some sort of associate involvement.

    American style play-offs or the Davis Cup are much better models for a test championship, as they negate (or deal with) home advantage and draws, while adding context to the currently interminable number of short "friendly" series. The problem then is mostly logistical - trying to schedule series in summer.

    My preference is to play no tests at neutral venues. A championship can be achieved by setting aside half the 4 year cycle for marquee (4/5 test traditional) series and the other two years to qualification (1 year, preferably regionally based) and a six team championship: 2 groups of 3 playing 3-test series home and away, winner of each group going to a home/away 4 test series (with a 5th test decider) played over Sept/Oct.

    I posted at somewhat excessive length on this last year at

  4. Cheers.. The t0p 4 will perticipate