What would the World Test Championship table look like if away wins counted double?
The format of the World Test Championship has been widely debated right from its ideation stage up to the present day when nearly two cycles of the tournament have been completed.
The most common suggestion to improve the format has been to provide teams with some incentive for winning games away from home. We tried doing that for the 2021-2023 cycle of the World Test Championship and here are the results.
In the current points system for the Championship, every Test has 12 points up for grabs. A win is awarded 12 points, a draw is awarded one-third of that, i.e. four, and in the unlikely event of a tie, both teams get six points each. Needless to say, no points are awarded for a loss.
The fundamental argument raised against this points system is that it assigns equal value to all Test matches, both home and away. Winning Test matches away from home is almost universally regarded as tougher and more valuable than winning at home, meaning this points system doesn’t reflect the reality of the challenge. Given that teams generally prepare pitches at home based on the strengths of their own players and the weaknesses of the opposition’s, there is also something to be said for the home advantage being taken into account in the points system.
How did teams perform away from home in WTC 2021-2023
India were the best touring team in this cycle, winning five Tests away from home. Their away victories came over England (two), South Africa (one), and Bangladesh (two). They were in decent positions in a few more of their away games including the Nottingham Test in 2021, where they needed 209 to win in the fourth innings on a decent batting track before rain washed away the fifth day, and the three consecutive away Tests which they lost by seven wickets each while defending decent scores in South Africa and England.
Pakistan were the next best team in terms of away victories, winning four away Tests across Sri Lanka (one), Bangladesh (two), and West Indies (one). In fact, in a rather peculiar campaign, Pakistan did not win any home Test, with all their victories coming outside Pakistan.
England and Australia were also decent away from home, winning three Tests each. Australia had three subcontinental tours lined up in this cycle and they managed to win one Test in each of those, surpassing the expectations of most pundits. England’s campaign meanwhile, was divided into pre-Bazball and post-Bazball halves with the latter seeing them whitewash Pakistan 3-0 in Pakistan.
The worst touring teams in this cycle were South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, and West Indies. They won a combined four Tests away from home. South Africa’s away victories came in Christchurch (following a drubbing) and Lord’s (followed by two drubbings), while Sri Lanka’s only overseas win came in Bangladesh.
The most memorable and unexpected Test win away from home in this cycle though might have come from the team which ended up with the least wins of all – Bangladesh. They defeated New Zealand in New Zealand to claim just their sixth overseas Test win in their history and their first in New Zealand.
The revised points system
To give you some perspective on how difficult it is to win Test matches away from home, here’s a stat. 326 Test matches have been played since the start of 2019 in non-neutral venues. Of those, only 48 Tests – 14.72% – have been won by teams in the opposition’s backyard.
This edition of the WTC saw some improvement in that regard with teams winning a combined 19 Test matches away from home out of the 69 matches that were played. To give more weightage to away victories, we made a slight tweak to the current points system and created a revised table.
Instead of the usual 12 points, this hypothetical points system awards 24 points to a team if they win a Test match away from home. The number of points ‘available’ for a win isn’t increased from 12 to 24 though. This means that if a team won all their scheduled matches, both home and away, they will hypothetically end up with a points percentage greater than 100 as they would have earned more points than they contested.
While it is not ideal, other more granular changes haven’t been made to make sure that things don’t get too complicated, while at the same time preserving the essence of what we want to achieve, that is, away wins being given more importance.
The revised World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-2023 points table
India and Australia swap their positions at the top with India’s five away victories giving them the edge. South Africa stay unchanged at No.3 Pakistan meanwhile make the biggest jump, as they climb from seventh in the original table to fourth in the revised one, pushing England, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand all down by one spot each. And to cap it off, West Indies and Bangladesh remain unchanged at the bottom of the table as well.