Cricket is the world’s second most-watched sport, boasting around 2.5 billion fans. Only football, with around 4 billion followers, is larger. Domestic competitions like the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash League are some of the biggest draws for spectators, especially in their home countries.
In some parts of the world, particularly India, Pakistan, and Australia, cricket dominates over other sports. In these countries, matches are watched by millions of adoring fans who idolise their favourite players and often even align their identity with their favourite team.
Despite loyal followings, cricket is yet to enjoy the same levels of interest in many other regions.
Cricket has also struggled in creating a focal point for its Test series. For a long time, there hasn’t been a single event that brings all of the world’s most successful national teams together to decide which country can take the bragging rights of being the best at Test cricket.
Tournaments like World Rugby’s World Cup and UEFA’s European Championship are engineered to have a final match that’s a showdown between the two best performing teams of the event so that a winner can emerge. But using the traditional Test series format, there was never a way to fully establish which country played the best cricket.
By not having this, organisers haven’t been able to draw in the same big crowds like organisations such as FIFA can.
The T20 World Cup and the ODI World Cup have shown that such a format can work in cricket. The T20 World, in particular, has proved to be incredibly popular, attracting 1.6 billion viewers each time it’s run. For sites like Betway Sports, it’s also one of the most popular cricket betting markets with odds offered for individual matches as well as futures bets like the World Cup winner and top batsman.
Despite this, the ICC struggled to recreate the success for Test cricket.
THE WORLD TEST CHAMPIONSHIP
The ICC World Test Championship was devised as a way to fix this problem. Using existing Test matches and building a league structure around them, cricket fans could keep score of which nation was performing better much more easily.
Despite suggestions for a Test tournament of some sorts, it took the best part of a decade to finally get the World Test Championship off the ground.
It finally began in 2019 and ran for two years, beginning with the 2019 running of The Ashes between England and Australia and ended with the final between India and New Zealand at Southampton’s Rose Bowl in June 2021, with the latter emerging victorious after six days.
For the most part, the inaugural running of the ICC World Test Championship has been regarded as a success, with most fans concurring that the two teams that made it to the final were the most deserving.
The Test matches that made up the championship were shining examples of cricket at its best. It is also widely agreed that the format achieved the objective of creating a “focal point” for international cricket. This is because it gave a reason for Australian fans to watch England play India and for South African fans to watch Australia host New Zealand and be invested in the outcome.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Riding high on the positive feelings towards the first championship, the governing body is keen to run it again. That said, it is also keen to make tweaks to the format to boost the spectacle and attract more fans.
This open approach to continuous improvement has been seen from the ICC before, such as the time it considered permanently turning stump mics on.
The 2021-2023 ICC World Test Championship got underway on 4th August when England hosted India, with more matches scheduled for November and December.
The most notable change introduced by the governing body is in the scoring. Instead of awarding 120 points for each Test series, the number will be reduced to just 12. While the proportion of points that will be offered doesn’t really change, it is hoped that the smaller numbers will be easier to understand.
The league rankings will be calculated using the percentage of points a team has compared to the number available to them. This was introduced partway through the 2019-21 championship but has been retained for 2021-23.
The rule that deducts points from teams that fall behind the required over rate remains but is now harsher due to the change in the number of points on offer.
The idea behind this deduction is to help keep the pace of cricket matches up, improving the excitement for fans both watching inside the ground and at home on television. This should also help to entice new fans who are sometimes critical of the length of a cricket match.
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