We all thought the idea was to promote Test cricket and facilitate the proliferation of the red-ball cricket. But the new Test Championship points system has ended up putting greater value on shorter Test series rather than longer, more grueling encounters.
The points system in place provides 120 points for each series, irrespective of the number of matches in it. All teams play three home and three away series in the current cycle leading up to the final in 2021. The idea behind it is that since all teams don’t play the same number of Tests, those who play more – like India, England and Australia – should not automatically get more points.
However, in order to avoid such a discrepancy, the current system has greatly undermined five-Test series. One win in a two-Test series is worth 60 points while in a five-match series, a team will have to win three Tests to better that since each win in that series is only worth 24 points.
While five-Test series are driven mainly by commercial considerations, it is the ultimate test of a red-ball team. But it does not make much sense now from a cricketing point of view.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation. If a team plays two five-match series, it stands to gain a maximum of 240 points. But to reach there, it needs to win 10 Tests. Another team can accrue the same number of points by winning just four matches in two two-Test series.
On Thursday, three crucial Tests will be played across the world. The third Ashes Test in Leeds is finely poised with Australia leading 1-0. India begin their Test Championship against a dangerous Caribbean team during a two-match series which kicks off in Antigua. New Zealand will aim to level the two-Test series against Sri Lanka at the P Sara Oval.
Although number of matches are different, all series carry equal points (120).— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) July 31, 2019
Pakistan winning a two-match series 2-0 will be as good as England winning a series 5-0 but, on the flip side, losing a series 0-2 will be as bad as 0-5. pic.twitter.com/pdfHZ3Zz0h
If Sri Lanka win the second Test against New Zealand, they will have a total 120 points. Australia will have fewer points than Sri Lanka even if they beat England 4-0 in the Ashes.
If the current points system remains well into the future, teams that play mainly two and three-Test series will be in a much better position to last the distance in a Test Championship cycle and fight for a spot in the final simply because it will be easier on the bodies of players, especially fast bowlers.
Inversely, teams that play more five-Test series will have to put in a lot more effort for not enough points and that can hurt them in the race to the title clash. A points system that has been created to fit existing arrangements will most likely end up hurting teams that play more Test cricket.
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Newly appointed head coach Russell Domingo had identified the need for Bangladesh to play more Test cricket if the side are to improve from their current ICC ranking of nine.
The former South Africa coach’s first assignment with the Bangladesh team will be a one-off Test against Afghanistan that gets underway on September 5. With the inaugural cycle of the World Test Championship getting underway earlier this month, Domingo wants the Tigers to shift their focus from limited-overs to red-ball cricket for the near future.
“It’s hard to get any sort of rhythm in your Test match cricket if you’re not playing that many Test matches,” Domingo said in his maiden media interaction since taking over as Bangladesh head coach.
“With the new Test Championship, that allows a team to focus a lot more on Test match cricket. We know often Bangladesh play one- or two-Test series. Hopefully now there will be three-Test series, four-Test series, which gets them more into that format.
“A lot of that focus now needs to move away from the World Cup and the 50-over format into Test match cricket. So it will be a good start to put a lot more focus and emphasis on our red-ball skills in the next couple of months.”
Head Coach Russell Domingo and Bowling Coach Charl Langeveldt joined the Conditioning Camp today at SBNCS 🏏 pic.twitter.com/GExgzHGiRe— Bangladesh Cricket (@BCBtigers) August 21, 2019
Bangladesh’s last Test assignment came against New Zealand at the start of the year with the side falling to a 0-2 defeat. The Tigers have failed to show the same improvements in the Test format as they have done in limited-overs cricket with just one series victory over West Indies to show for in the last four years.
Domingo believes that a greater emphasis on red-ball cricket and more scheduling of Tests can help combat those woes.
“It’s a massive opportunity for Bangladesh to compete regularly in Test match cricket. Their last Test match was maybe six months ago, we can hardly remember when it was,” he said.
“The more you play the better you’re going to get in the format. That’s probably where they have been lacking, they haven’t played a lot of Test match cricket.
“If you look at England, Australia, India, and weigh those up against the number of Tests Bangladesh have played, you can understand why they are the leading sides in the world in that format.”
Russell will be joined by his compatriot Charles Langeveldt in the Bangladesh coaching staff with the former South Africa seamer taking over as bowling coach. The pair have joined the the ongoing conditioning camp for Bangladesh players at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday.
England and Australia resume their Ashes battle at Headingley on Thursday morning, ready to test the theory that Steve Smith is the difference between the two sides.
Smith is a notable absentee from the third Specsavers Test, having scored 378 runs in three innings before Jofra Archer’s 92mph bouncer left him with a concussion and possibly changed the course of the series.
Without his runs and resolute crease occupation, Australia’s 1-0 series lead might easily have been reversed and the hosts must now take advantage of his absence as they bid to level the score in Leeds.
The first matter of business will be a final concussion check of their own – batsman Jason Roy requiring a final check-up after being hit on the helmet by a throw down while netting on Tuesday.
His Surrey team-mate Ollie Pope has been summoned on a standby basis following his unbeaten double century against Hampshire, but England do not anticipate any change in Roy’s condition.
Assessing the momentum shift that Smith’s enforced absence appears to have brought, Root said: “They will be huge shoes to fill.
“You get these swings within a big series like this every now and again and when you get your opportunity you’ve got to jump on it.
“It is amazing how quickly things can turn around. You look where we were perceived to be at the end of the Edgbaston Test match and now coming into this one. Even though the scoreline says 1-0 down, it doesn’t feel that way at all.”
Root was quick to strike a note of empathy with Smith but also offered a gentle reminder that Australia are not alone in seeing one of their star performers injured at a crucial moment.
“Of course this is a huge series and it means so much to all our players, but it doesn’t mean that much in terms of someone getting seriously hurt and potentially ruining the rest of their life,” he said.
“There was a lot of concern in our dressing room for his health. It’s very unfortunate on their part but we had the challenge of Jimmy Anderson going down four overs into the first Test match and had to manage that without a replacement.”
As for Archer, last week’s Test debutant continues to win gushing praise at every turn.
Asked how the 24-year-old might cope now he is firmly in the spotlight, Root added: “He’s dealing with it pretty well, I think. He’s just a very relaxed character, unfazed by anything. He’s one of those guys who seem to be born for these occasions.”
Australia captain Tim Paine welcomed the sense of hype around the game and is confident his side are ready to take on Archer’s express pace.
“We’ve got to have a plan to counter that and I know our boys will. Everyone is going to be different, we’re all different players,” he said.
“When someone’s bowling fast and the crowd’s up and about it’s exciting, your adrenaline starts pumping. It’s exciting, I think it’s great for Test match cricket.
“I think the interest it’s sparked in the last week or 10 days has been great for the game and the people that have been watching it have thoroughly enjoyed it. We’re looking forward to the challenge again this week.”
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