World Test Championship: Flawed concept did little to inspire - Chris Waters

IT was possible, in the happy aftermath of New Zealand’s World Test Championship final win against India recently, to think that the tournament and concept had been a success.

Victorious: New Zealand captain Kane Williamson plays a shot during the sixth day of the World Test Championship final against India at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. Picture: AP

Who could not be pleased for New Zealand everybody’s second-favourite team?

Who could not be delighted for Kane Williamson, honorary Yorkshireman, of course, and the Kiwis’ captain?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Victory clearly meant much to them, confirming their status as the No 1 side in the ICC rankings, while the final itself had much to commend it, despite two days being lost to rain.

New Zealand's Will Young (right) bats during day two of the Second LV= Insurance Test match at at Edgbaston (Picture: PA)

But just as beauty is only skin deep, so one should not judge the WTC by its cover or the memory of that splendid final.

For what about the previous two years of interminable build-up, the flawed points scoring system, the unequal number of matches played?

Who now can remember but a handful of series that did not involve their own country, or had any special interest in most of those contested by the other countries, let alone have a grasp, at any given time, of what the league table actually looked like, what a particular team had to do to reach the final, what fixtures and series were coming up, and so on, and – above all – who actually cared?

It was, in essence, a league that lasted for an eternity, saw teams play a different number of matches, and which produced a one-off game between the No 1 and No 2-ranked sides in any case.

If that is a concept designed to sustain and generate interest in Test cricket, the tournament’s raison d’etre, after all, then the organisers are what I remember saying at the outset – deluded.

Of course, tweaks and improvements will be made going forward – they always are – but the essential problem remains: Test cricket does not lend itself to this sort of context.

Why, the clue is in the fact that matches last up to five days, that each individual series takes weeks, sometimes months to complete, and that the league lasts for the amount of time that it does – and this from a sport which, at the opposite end of the absurdity spectrum, is about to throw at us The Hundred in an orgy of gimmickry because, apparently, we have little or no attention span.

The context in which Test cricket does work – and has always been played historically – is in that of each individual series, which provides its own interest and narrative without being part of any wider scheme, however well intended.

This correspondent has never been a particular fan of the ICC rankings either, but since they are there and well established, they seem to satisfy any prevailing desire to separate the wheat from the chaff just as effectively.

To those who advocate the WTC, ask yourself this: who in West Indies and South Africa, say, is likely to have been really inspired by the inaugural edition? What has it done, what will it do, for cricket in such countries, or must they win it/go close for it to have an effect?

Who in this country, when you really stop to think about it, would have had any great interest in the WTC final had it been contested, for example, between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Auckland rather than between the top two-ranked teams just down the road at the Hampshire Bowl?

Surely the ICC’s emphasis would be better trained on ensuring that Test cricket is properly funded, so that countries can afford to play it and, crucially, that the best players want to take part in it instead of throwing in their lot with franchise T20.

Nor should the “little things” go ignored. Over-rates need to be dramatically improved, with specific run penalties in games as opposed to just fines, and bad light regulations overhauled, all of which would enhance the spectating experience.

Another improvement – albeit one which would never happen – is a return to fewer Test matches full stop, making them more of an event.

There is a reason why the phrase “less is more” is so hated by administrators, and it does not need spelling out.