The Hindu Explains | How did Team India get to the top of the ICC World Test Championship standings?

Who are the other contenders, and what lies ahead?

Updated - April 20, 2021 07:46 am IST

Published - January 24, 2021 03:00 am IST

Indian players and staff parade around the ground after winning the Test Match against Australia at The Gabba on January 19, 2021 in Brisbane. Photo: Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Indian players and staff parade around the ground after winning the Test Match against Australia at The Gabba on January 19, 2021 in Brisbane. Photo: Cricket Australia via Getty Images

The story so far: Thanks to its marvellous comeback since the abysmal defeat at Adelaide, India ambushed Australia to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at 2-1 in the recent four-match Test series. The win propelled India to the top of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) standings . India has an overall tally of 430 points and 71.7 percentage points, just ahead of New Zealand (420, 70.0 %). A squad can gain a maximum of 120 points per series with the ‘points for a victory’ ratio being linked to the number of contests. Just to illustrate this fact, in a two-match series, a triumph will earn 60, while in one that features five games, a win will yield 24, the norm being that the total points per unit will be capped at 120.

Were the rules changed due to COVID-19?

As the COVID-19 pandemic forced people indoors and silenced grounds, cricket suffered too. The disruption affected the Test championship, and the ICC Cricket Committee headed by former India captain Anil Kumble suggested that games that never happened should not be taken into account as draws with points being split for the sake of convenience. Instead, it was recommended that it would be prudent to factor in only contests that happened and teams should be ranked on the basis of percentage of points earned, the formulae being points gained divided by overall points available.

Also read | World Test Championship: ICC’s altered point system puts Australia to top, India at no. 2

Is India assured of playing in the WTC final?

India, Australia and New Zealand are the top three contenders for the final of the inaugural edition to be held at Lord’s this June. But to seal its qualification, India has to defeat England by a two-match margin in the imminent four-game Test series that would be played in Chennai and Ahmedabad.

If India loses one Test, then it has to win by 3-1, but in case England prevails by 4-0 or 3-0, then Virat Kohli’s men will fail to qualify. It is difficult to envisage India losing, but it is prudent to remember that England prevailed at 2-1 during its 2012-13 tour.

Why did the ICC start the Test championship?

Be it One Day Internationals (ODIs) or Twenty20Is (T20Is), there was always a multi-nation top-billed championship — the ODI World Cup since 1975 and the ICC World Twenty20 from 2007 (subsequently rechristened as the T20 World Cup). But Tests, plagued by dwindling attendance, needed a rousing context. Despite all the excitement centred around the Ashes, the Indo-Pak clashes and the India-Australia face-offs, bilateral Test series needed to lead towards a significant climax. Hence, the ICC drew up a time-frame from August 2019 to June 2021, originally featuring 71 Tests in 27 series leading into the final. But due to the pandemic, the ICC now hopes to finish only around 85% of these stated fixtures.

Also read | World Test Championship: reigniting the spark for the longest format

Do ICC Test Rankings have any bearing? Where is India placed there?

The ICC Test rankings have a limited bearing, in the sense that the top nine teams in that list qualify for the Test championship. But beyond that, the grading system is different for both benchmarks — be it rankings or championship. Another complexity is that not all bilateral series are deemed a part of the championship, while every Test is taken into consideration for the overall rankings. As far as rankings go, currently, India is placed second below top-billed New Zealand. But in the championship, it is a role reversal as India leads while New Zealand snaps at its heels.

What is happening on the women’s side?

Though women’s Test matches commenced in the 1934-35 season, the longer-format outings, except the four-day variety, have been meagre. So far, a total of 140 games have been played, with two being abandoned. India last played a Test during November 2014 against South Africa at Mysuru. Women cricketers have been clamouring for more Tests, besides ODIs and T20Is. However, a formal Test championship for women is yet to take shape.

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