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ICC contemplate options to conclude current World Test Championship cycle

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With the final set to be in the month of June next year, the ICC are contemplating splitting points for unplayed games in the current World Test Championship (WTC) cycle. While splitting points for the unplayed matches have been considered as an option by the ICC, the other option considers only those matches actually played by the end of March and bases final positions on the percentage of points sides have won from those that they’ve contested.

ICC would look to attain some clarity on the same before the next World Test Championship contests take place, which is in December, when the West Indies tour New Zealand for a two Test match series. Any decision from the cricket committee would have to be signed off by the chief executives’ committee.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant number of Tests have been postponed this year. In many cases, it isn’t clear when they might be rescheduled to, let alone whether they can be squeezed in within this WTC league cycle, which concludes at the end of March 2021.

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Splitting the points would be within the regulations as they stand, whereby all Tests in the cycle that can’t be played (through no fault of either side) are deemed draws. In that scenario, both sides receive a third of the points available for a Test (120 points are available for every series). Basing it on percentages of points played for would require a tweak to existing regulations.

There remains hope that a substantial number of the remaining commitments until the end of March will still go ahead. For example, New Zealand will have a full home summer, and South Africa are aiming to host Sri Lanka and Australia between now and next March. Currently, Pakistan are expecting to host South Africa in January-February. Australia, England and India, meanwhile, will complete their commitments against each other by the end of March.

ICC

South Africa are aiming to host Sri Lanka and Australia in the near future

As things stand, however, only India and England have a realistic chance of playing all six of their respective WTC series. For England, that depends on whether their Sri Lanka tour goes ahead. Pakistan can play six series but one against Bangladesh wouldn’t have been completed.

It was only last week that it emerged that the final was going ahead at Lord’s in June next year, when Tom Harrison, the ECB CEO, said his board had been in discussions with the ICC about its staging. That was the culmination of a few weeks of communications between the ICC and its members, in which some boards preferred to see the final postponed and others the cycle completed.

One of the concerns cited by those wanting postponement was about the integrity of a league in which a final is held without all games in the run-up to it being played. Those in favour stressed the importance of completing the inaugural cycle of a tournament that had unanimous backing when conceived, even with imperfections.

Postponement was the favoured option, though when practicalities were explored, a workable alternative could not be found. The lack of space in the calendar, in fact, is one of the driving reasons why there is keenness to ensure a final takes place next June and the first cycle of the league is officially completed.

The second WTC cycle starts will take place right after the final of the current one, with India’s Test series in England. After that, teams will begin preparing for the T20 World Cup in India, with a major Test series – the Ashes – scheduled in Australia at the end of the year. Apart from the oddity of completing the first season of a league while the second is ongoing, there is a worry that between these high-profile events and series, the impact of a first World Test Championship final will be lost.

With this in mind, and based on feedback from those in favour, the decision was taken to push ahead with the final.

Source: Osman Samiuddin, ESPNCricinfo