@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read
The World Test Championship (WTC) was introduced in 2019 to bring some greater context to the longest format, and in some respects, it has achieved its aim.
The 2021 WTC final was a genuine showpiece event, won in dramatic circumstances by New Zealand, a neutral’s favourite. And with several teams in contention for the 2023 final, the tournament has maintained its relevance, even as international cricket is squeezed by the franchise circuit.
However, the competition is not without its flaws, with the points system having changed twice already across two editions. To begin with, each team was set to play three series at home and three away, with the same number of points available for each rubber. This meant that not every game was worth the same amount; a win in a two-match series would garner 60 points, but a win in a five-match series would be worth only 24 points.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, forcing the cancellation of several series, a change was needed, and the ‘points won per points contested’ (PCT) system was created. This allowed teams who had played differing number of series to be ranked in the same table, and the method was extended to the 2021-23 cycle, albeit with another twist. Now, each game receives the same weighting, rather than each series.
But this presents another issue, since it is now possible for a team to contest a lot more points at home than away from home, a potential advantage in such a condition-dependent sport. Enter Virat Kohli, who proposed a solution all the way back in 2019. “If you’d have asked me to make the points table, I would give double the points for an away Test win,” he said. “That is something that I would have definitely liked to see. Maybe after the first edition.”
That proposed change has yet to come to fruition, but it’s an intriguing prospect. What would the 2019-21 and the 2021-23 World Test Championship tables look like if away points counted double?
For the current cycle, this is a fairly easy calculation to make: if you keep the points contested the same for each team, you simply need to add an extra 12 points on for each away win to arrive at a new points won total.
However, while the change is simple, the effects on the standings are drastic. With all four of Pakistan’s wins having come away from home so far, they rocket from fifth into first place, with Australia occupying second, and current table-toppers South Africa down into third.
The adjusted 2019-21 table is even more intriguing. The method we used is to double the points for each away win, sticking to the original weightings. So an away win in a five-match series would be worth 48 points, and an away win in a two-match series would be worth a whopping 120 points.
Under this shift, it’s England who are the big beneficiaries. With impressive results in the cycle including a 3-1 series win in South Africa and a 2-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka, they leapfrog Australia and New Zealand to take second place and a spot in the final against India.
The other big beneficiaries are West Indies. Having secured a 2-0 Test series win in Bangladesh, and a Test win in England, they jump from second-last to mid-table comfort, sitting sixth, ahead of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.