Test Championship: India aim to ease WC pain

MUMBAI: It‘s been almost three weeks since India got knocked out of the World Cup. Fans, players and the cricket community still seem to be in mourning. Perhaps, a few wins against the West Indies in the T20Is and ODIs may ease that pain. However, in another three weeks from now, India start their journey towards another goal, which would hold massive value in the eyes of the traditional cricket fan.

When India play the West Indies in the first of two Tests at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua from August 22, they would launch their bid for the inaugural World Test Championship – the ICC‘s ambitious plan to revamp Test cricket. Over a period of two years, the top nine Test playing nations will slug it out for one coveted prize in their bid to become the undisputed champion in Tests.

“The World Test championship will give a new meaning and context to Test cricket. Even the dead rubber games will have importance now. India have a terrific team especially a bowling attack capable of taking 20 wickets anywhere in the world and that should make them leading contenders to be the first Test match champions of the world. My very best wishes to the team for a successful start to their campaign in the West Indies,” batting legend told TOI on Sunday.

Starting from the Ashes, which begins from August 1, for every Test that will be now played under the WTC, a certain number of points will be up for grabs and the top two teams with most points at the end of the two-year cycle will play the final at Lord‘s in June 2021. If the final is tied or drawn, the team which topped the points table at the end of the league will be declared winner.

Till now, the ICC awarded the Test Championship Mace, along with a purse of $1 million to the team finishing at the top of the Test rankings by the cut-off date on April 1. However, now, the whole ball game, when it comes to context is set to change.

“I know players love playing Test cricket. The Test rankings have done a good job over a long period of time in the sense of identifying the best team, but to be able to compete on a points table and play for a spot in the final will add a new element to Test cricket and will make it more interesting to people from the countries not involved in that particular match,” , the general manager of cricket at the ICC, said.

What adds to the excitement is the fact that while the players will continue to wear whites, they will sport jersey numbers on the back of their shirts.

At the moment, India are the No 1 Test team in the world, and deservedly so. In last December-January, they recorded their maiden Test series win in Australia when they won 2-1. At home, they have been invincible on spin-friendly tracks, not having lost a series since England stunned them 2-1 in 2012.

No wonder, Kohli sounded “very excited” by the idea of the WTC. In a recent exclusive interview with TOI, Kohli said: “It (the WTC) is very exciting. I think it‘s happening at the right time for Test cricket. Although you are going to play a bilateral series, the meaning and importance are way more. You have to plan for every series.”

Also keyed up for this championship is India‘s Test No. 3, , who has scored 5,426 runs in 68 Tests.18, to emerge as the premier batsman in the oldest format of the game. “Every Test and series will be important, especially those played away. Earlier, teams used to take the third Test lightly after winning the series but you can‘t afford to do that now with points on offer for every game,” Pujara said.

India‘s biggest test will be when they travel to Australia and New Zealand. However, what must encourage India is a pace attack which is probably the best they‘ve ever had. In , possibly the No. 1 bowler in all formats, Mohammad Shami, , and , India now have five top-class pacers.

However, if India do aspire to be crowned Test champions they must find batsmen apart from Kohli and Pujara who can deliver in all conditions.

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