Did you know that ICC has been running a World Test Championship since 2018, in which the top two teams will play the final at Lords in June next year. India and Australia currently top the table
By Shivaji Sengupta
India and Australia are gearing up for a four-Test cricket series starting December 17. Willow TV, available through many cable and satellite platforms in the US, will stream the Test matches live. Because of the 16-hour time-difference, the first Test will begin on 11 pm (EST) when it is 3 in the afternoon in Adelaide. Why is it starting so late? Because it is a “Day-Night Test.”
It is one of the latest ploys by the ICC to inject crowd involvement in cricket by making it possible for cricket enthusiasts to attend these games. The other three will start at 10 AM, 6 PM the day before, our time.
Test cricket may be a dying form, slowly becoming attenuated primarily because matches are played for 34 hours over five days, a monstrosity in today’s fast-paced life. Forty-two years ago, in 1978, Kerry Packer, an Australian sports promoter, conceived of one-day cricket which now has become established as ODIs. By the early 21st century, an even shorter version of the game, T20, was invented. This too has established itself with its own World Cup and all the attendant fanfare. India is a powerhouse in this version. She won the inaugural World Cup in 2007, and has been among the top four since.
But, like Donald Trump, 5-day Test matches refuse to go away! Played in front of embarrassingly depleted crowds, this longest version of the game is a severe money-loser, depending on its survival on the two shorter formats. The Day-Night version, played under powerful lights with a pink ball is probably its last gasp. If this does not succeed financially, Test Cricket will die.
As a part of the survival effort, the ICC has even started a World Test Championship (WTC) since 2018. Each of the 10 Test playing countries play each other once in the space of about three years. Points are awarded for victories and draws. The top two teams will meet in June 2021 on the Lords Cricket Ground in London, the Mecca of cricket.
The impending Test Match series between India and Australia is a part of WTC. Australia is leading in percentage points although India has the most points of the 10 competitors. The percentage points came into play because of COVID. Several series have been cancelled because of it. More will.
The India-Oz series will be played amidst this complicated scenario. This would be Australia’s last series before the WTC final at Lords. India has another series left against England, to be played in India. India, Australia, England and New Zealand are the four teams with any realistic chance of winning the WTC. Pakistan is an outsider, looking in.
But even without all these incentives, India-Australia Test matches have acquired intense partisan interest. Up until the last century, these Tests were hardly competitive, especially in Australia where the Indians had never won a series until 2018. Aussies have always been fierce competitors, and have dominated Test cricket for decades. India is the new “wannabe.” They have been the point-leaders in this format for the last two years. COVID continues to be the ogre threatening to stop any series on its tracks regardless of the stage it is in.
If this series is successfully completed, it will be WTC: Without the Coronavirus!
(Shivaji Sengupta is a retired Professor of English at Boricua College, New York City. He has a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Despite living in America for 4 decades he has retained his interest in cricket.)