Heading into the World Test Championship (WTC) final, India head coach Ravi Shastri was asked whether a one-off finale does as much justice to the two-year league and would a ‘best-of-three’ finals series provided for a fairer conclusion?
Shastri nodded in agreement, echoing a sentiment expressed by thousands of fans in the lead up to the match, fearing that the hardwork done by their team for two and half years could be ruined in one or two hours of bad play in Southampton.
And they’re right, it is not ideal to have a one-off final for a ‘league’ that saw you contest six series each, three of those away, and at the same time manage a points system that got changed midway due to the pandemic.
“In a perfect world, a three-Test series would be a great way to decide the World Test Championship,” even ICC’s acting CEO Geoff Allardice agreed while speaking to ESPNcricinfo.
But, and this is important, Allardice also added, “the reality (of) the international cricket schedule is we are just not going to have (a situation where) blocking out a month or so for all the teams in the tournament for the final is realistic.”
“That’s why one-match final was decided upon. Why it is quite exciting is because it brings something new. Here were are – we’ve got a one-off Test match to decide the best team in the world over this two-year cycle.”
The word “reality” here is pertinent, for not many have yet come to accept it as far as the WTC is concerned. Teams and their fans aside, many commentators and experts who shape opinions outside have been calling out of the tournament’s flaws for a while. And yes, it is flawed and would’ve been different in a perfect world. But it’s about time, more and more should people come to realise, cricket isn’t run in a perfect world.
WTC final: Why neither India nor New Zealand should mind a draw
There is a huge discrepancy in the earnings of different member nations and thus the kind of investment and attention that they can afford to give to Test match cricket. In the pre-WTC world, major countries like India, Australia and England had no obligations to face the likes of Sri Lanka, West Indies, New Zealand and Bangladesh. The WTC, independent of its makeup and points system, has changed that for good. And not only changed that, but also brought a New Zealand on a near-equal footing to an incredibly resourced team like India.
This writer has previously also tried to throw a sense of perspective into the mix about WTC. But it’s important to recognise today, as ‘draw’ emerges to be the most likely result at Ageas Bowl, both India and New Zealand shouldn’t mind, in a deeper sense, if there is no outright result and they happen to share the trophy. They’ve earned the right to do so after toiling as hard as they have through a two-year league cycle.
It required India victories by heavy margins in Australia and at home against England to make it this far after the pandemic accentuated the impact of their series loss in New Zealand by leading to a major tweak in the points system. Despite an unprecedented break and multiple injuries, India conquered the challenge Down Under and dominated the English after an initial hiccup.
And you can argue that the Kiwis didn’t win as many away from home as they did in their own den, but that’s not what the league required them to do. It required them to earn enough points irrespective of where the match is played to reach the final, which they successfully did and did it even before ‘Big 3’ – which is remarkable given the alarming gap in their resources to the rest of the teams.
So, yes, it’s not ideal to have a one-off final for a league, which is already not ideal in its makeup, and then have it absolutely ruined by the weather. But it’s also not ideal for any of these sides to be in a position to lose it in the first place. Even if only one hand, both the teams shouldn’t mind if it’s on the trophy.