It’s 2020 and considering the manner in which the year has panned out thus far, almost everything is prone to a spectacular, inconceivable change. Just ask the Virat Kohli-led Team India, who up until a few days ago were all but certain of making it to the finals of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship at the ‘Mecca of Cricket’- Lord’s.
After all, India was at the numero-uno spot since the inception of the championship, having gained 360 points thanks to the seven victories out of the 9 contested encounters and a total available 480 points. That has all not changed now thanks to the new points calculation system introduced by the International Cricket Council, a few days ago.
The move, as the ICC has mentioned, is the ‘least bad’ option that they could think of, in the wake of several series getting canceled due to lockdown-enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was recommended by the Anil Kumble-led cricket committee and the same was approved by the ICC Board this past week.
So, what was the original qualification criteria for the ICC World Test Championship?
- First, let’s get the basics out of our way. Every team in the two-year cycle is supposed to play a total of six Test rubbers- three home and three away. Each series carries a maximum weightage of 120 points. And, that is irrespective of the length of the series.
- The rubber could be of two, three, four, or five Tests but the maximum points allotted per series is 120. So, if a team is playing a two-match rubber, then every match will hold a weightage of 60 points. Similarly, in the case of three, four, and five-match rubbers, every game carries a weight of 40, 30, and 24 points respectively.
- In the case of a draw, each team gets 1/3rd of total available points  while a tied game sees an equitable distribution of points.
- So, after a two-year cycle, the top two teams with the maximum aggregated points out of a total available 720- Total Number of series  * Total Points per series - points will qualify for the summit clash at Lord’s in June 2021.
- Hence, India, thanks to a total of 360 points, after having contested four series, were at the numero-uno spot followed by Australia [296 points after three series] England- 292 points after 4 series- and New Zealand, who have 180 points after contesting three rubbers.
So, what has changed? And, how did Australia leapfrog India despite having less WTC points?
A lot actually. After a number of series got canceled due to Covid, the ICC has now decided to amend the point system. While in the pre-corona world, the sides’ with the most points accumulated over a two-year cycle would have qualified for the final showdown at Lord’s, in today’s world, it’s the highest percentage of points gained over the maximum points it had contested for, which will pave their way for the summit clash.
?? Today's announcement means Australia jump past India to claim ? spot in the ICC World Test Championship ? pic.twitter.com/Pjitqfu2pg
— ICC (@ICC) November 19, 2020
And, hence after the amendment, India, despite having the most points have been upstaged by Australia. Confused? Let me explain it in simple terms-
- India have so far gained 360 points. But they have done that by playing 4 series. 4 series amount to 480 points. Hence, the percentage of points that they have racked up is- 360/480, i.e- 75%.
- Australia, on the other hand, have 296 points against their name. But, they have gained them after playing just 3 series. Three series amounts to 360 available points. Thus, their percentage of points comes out to be- 296/360, i.e- 82.2%.
Has India’s chances of qualifying for the WTC finals been jeopardized? If yes, What do they need to do now?
In one word, Yes. After these new amendments, suddenly India’s 0-2 defeat to New Zealand is looking very significant; something that might come to haunt them. How?
- If you look at the points table, New Zealand are currently at the 4th spot with 180 points. The Kiwis have two home series coming up against West Indies and Pakistan. Each of them are of two matches apiece. Hence, even if the BlackCaps win all those 4 Tests [240 points], the maximum points that they could have accumulated are 420.
- India already have 360 points and they have a total of nine Test matches coming up- 4 in Australia and 5 at home against England. Hence, even if India suffer a whitewash in Australia, they still could have easily ended in the top-2, by beating England in the home series and gaining 60+ points.
In the post-corona world
What are the possible scenarios for New Zealand and Team India?
- In the current scenario, assuming New Zealand win all their four Tests at home, then their percentage of points accumulated would be 420/600- 70%.
- That said, the Kiwis cannot afford even a single hiccup. Even if they drop one Test out of the four, their percentage points will drop to 60 [360/60].
- If Kane Williamson’s men win all their 4 home Tests, India will have to ensure that they lose no more than 3-1 in Australia and brownwash England 5-0. That will take the Men in Blue’s percentage of points marginally ahead – 510/720, i.e- 70.8- of New Zealand [70%].
- If India drops all 4 Tests to Australia, then win all five against England, it will take their percentage of points to 66.6 [480/720], which would be way below NZ’s 70.
- If India loses 0-2 to Australia but sweeps England 5-0, they’ll have 500 points- 360+ 20 [for two draws] + 120- and their percentage of points will be 69.44 [500/720].
- If India overcomes the odds and manages to defeat Australia 2-1, then if even a 4-0 result against England will be enough for them to marginally pip NZ. In that case, the Men in Blue will have 526 [360+ 60 + 10 + 96] points, taking their percentage to 70.1. In the case of India beating England 5-0, their percentage points will go up to 76.33 [550/720]
- To sum it all up, if NZ wins their four home Tests against WI and PAK, then India will have to ensure that they gain at least 150 points to keep the Kiwis at bay.
What the scenarios for the Aussies?
- As for Australia, if they beat India 4-0 but lose all three Tests against South Africa [if that series happens], then their percentage of points will go down to 69.33.
- If they lose 1-2 against India but beat South Africa 0-3. then their percentage points, in this case, will be 76 [456/600].
- If they lose 1-3 to India, then they will have to whitewash South Africa 0-3 to ensure they stay well ahead of New Zealand even if the latter win all their home Tests. Their percentage points, in this scenario, will be 74.3.
Can England somehow qualify?
- To be honest, it is really looking difficult for the English. That is not only because they have just 292 points out of the contested 480, but also because of their schedule ahead. Their 2-match trip to Sri Lanka is yet not confirmed. What is confirmed though, is they have a grueling five-match series coming up in India. a place where they last lost 1-4.
- England will try their best to schedule the two-match series against Sri Lanks this winter. The series was supposed to take place last March but it had to be called off due to Covid. If the tour takes place and the visitors manage to whitewash Sri Lanka again, it will take their percentage of points from 60.8 to 68.66.
- But, then they have a tough 5-match Test series in India. And, for them to beach 70%-mark to stay afloat for the summit clash at Lord’s, even if New Zealand win all their four home Tests, they’ll have to perform a miracle and outsmart Virat Kohli’s men by a margin of at least 4-0. In that case, their total points will get to 516, the percentage of the point being 71.66. That is, of course, assuming they beat SL [If the tour happens] 2-0.