India and New Zealand will lock horns in the final of the ICC World Test Championship next month. The much-awaited match will be played at The Rose Bowl Cricket Stadium in Southampton, England, and begin on June 18, 2021. India and New Zealand topped the points table of ICC World Test Championship, which enabled them to book a berth in the final. During the tournament, India played 12 matches, in which they won 12 and lost 4. One match ended in a draw. On the other hand, New Zealand played 11 matches in which they won 7 and lost 4.
While New Zealand definitely showed an incredible performance to seal a berth in the ICC World Test Championship final, it is to be noted that a change of rule by ICC in the tournament enabled New Zealand to rise to the top in the points table. This rule also emerged as a disadvantage for England, which could not qualify for the ICC WTC final in spite of having more points table New Zealand in the ICC World Test Championship points table.
ICC WTC Format And Rules When Tournament Commenced
The ICC World Test Championship tournament commenced in 2019. There were 9 teams part of the tournament- India, Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Every country was scheduled to play 6 bilateral Test series during ICC World Test Championship. Countries had to finalize these 6 bilateral series with mutual agreements and hence could select any 6 teams out of the 9 they wanted to play with.
ICC World Test Championship started with The Ashes 2019 between England and Australia. Every bilateral series in ICC World Test Championship was allotted 120 points. Therefore, if a bilateral series consisted of 2 Test matches, one match will be worth 60 points (120 divided by 2).
Similarly, if a Test series consisted of 5 matches, each match will be worth 24 points (120 divided by 5). The tournament commenced with The Ashes 2019 tournament between England and Australia. ICC had planned to schedule the final of the ICC World Test Championship in June 2021 in England.
Earlier, it was decided that the teams will be ranked according to the points they earn after every tournament. Also, after the completion of all the 6 bilateral Test series of the 9 participating teams, the top two teams that earn the most points will qualify for finals. However, the rule of ranking teams according to points had to be amended after the tournament was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Covid-19 Hampers Bilateral Series In ICC WTC
During the end of 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic created a worldwide emergency. The viral disease hampered cricket as many countries had to halt international travels and impose lockdowns for the safety of people. As a result, conducting bilateral Test series was impossible for all cricket boards. The Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak during 2020 and many bilateral series in ICC World Test Championship had to be postponed during the pandemic.
Since many bilateral Test series were hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, ICC had to amend rules to select the deserving finalists of the tournament. ICC did not want to extend the dates of the ICC World Test Championship final as they wanted to complete the tournament as planned.
When the tournament was affected by Covid-19, less than 50 percent of matches had been played and ICC learned that the tournament will be able to witness only 85 percent of the total matches before the final in June 2021.
ICC Changes Rule To Adjudge Deserving Finalists
In November 2020, ICC changed an important rule in the tournament. According to this new rule, the teams will be ranked according to the percentage of points (PCT) they have earned. For instance, if a team has played 6 bilateral series, they had a chance to earn (6 X 120) 720 points. If the team has managed to earn 720 points, they will have 100 percent of points (PCT). Similarly, if a team managed to earn 360 points in 6 series, they will have a PCT of 50 (earning 360 points out of 720).
When the rule was amended in November 2020, Australia replaced India from the top spot in the ICC WTC points table. After earning 296 points in 3 series at the time, Australia had a PCT of 82.2. On the other hand, India had more points than Australia with 360. However, India played 4 series and thus had a PCT of 75. England were on the 3rd spot at that time with a PCT of 60.8, after earning 292 points in 4 series.
England Gets Disadvantage With The New Rule
The new rule change gave a big advantage to New Zealand and a disadvantage to England. When the new rule of PCT was introduced, England had already played 4 bilateral series and had only 2 series left, both away tours against Sri Lanka and India.
On the other hand, New Zealand got a big advantage as they only had to play 2 bilateral series with West Indies and Pakistan at their home. Their series consisted of only two matches and with the home advantage, New Zealand had a great chance to bag a total of 240 points from the 4 matches.
New Zealand could also play only 5 bilateral Test series out of the planned 6. As New Zealand’s total number of series in ICC WTC were reduced to 5, the total points they could earn also reduced to 600 (5 X 120) instead of 720. Therefore, it helped New Zealand to increase their percentage of points (PCT) earned during the tournament in spite of finishing with fewer points.
When the rule change was announced in November 2020, England held the 3rd spot in the points table with 292 points and a PCT of 60.8. New Zealand held the 4th spot with 180 points and a PCT of 50. New Zealand won their home series against West Indies (2-0) and Pakistan (2-0) and moved to the 2nd spot.
On the other hand, England managed to defeat Sri Lanka (2-0) but lost to India (1-3) and finished in the 4th spot. New Zealand won 7 matches and lost 4 out of a total of 11 matches. England played 21 matches out of which they won 11 matches and lost 7, while 3 ended in a draw.
If we take a look final points table of the ICC World Test Championship, England had more points than New Zealand. England has 442 points while New Zealand had 420 points. But since England played 6 Test series and New Zealand played only 5 Test series, New Zealand had a better PCT of 70.0 as compared to England’s 61.4.
If the finalists were selected on the basis of the earlier rule (according to points earned), England would have got the 2nd spot and qualified for the ICC World Test Championship final. Therefore, we can say that the changed rule of the percentage of points earned (PCT) eliminated England from the ICC World Test Championship final.