The most significant and important reason of the India-England four-match Test series will be for one of the sides to ensure they qualify for the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final. Unfortunately, this wonderful initiative by the International Cricket Council (ICC) went completely into a tail spin because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The simple point calculation system went totally awry because the schedule could not be met and a simpler formula of percentages came into play.
The battle for a place in the final is between the four top teams that at present rule the world of cricket — India, England, New Zealand, and Australia. New Zealand have already qualified as their nearest rival Australia opted out of the tour to South Africa, leaving India a favourable chance to qualify — if they beat England convincingly at home.
One does understand that the loneliness of the bio-secure bubble and the concern of catching the dreaded virus has had a major mental effect on a cricketer. This has been relayed by some of them through personal interviews. However, for countries not to play their best XIs at a time when qualifying for the WTC final is at stake is simply not acceptable.
This truly shows that the inaugural WTC has no significant value among the cricket playing countries. Test cricket is not as lucrative a commercial venture as the limited-overs version of the game, but to give it a step brotherly treatment does not augur well. The recently completed India-Australia Test series showed how absorbing, challenging, and competitive Test cricket can be, and the skills, guts, and patience it requires to do well.
The young enthusiastic Indian and the ardent followers finally did get to understand and enjoy the conventional form of the game. The series against England will be extensively followed as Indian fans have finally grown to enjoy Test cricket. However, the importance of what it means to be the ultimate cricket champion team needs to be far more advertised and talked about in order to give Test cricket that pride of place. The ICC has to play a much greater role in projecting their newly structured Test championship.
The first Test match between India and England in Chennai, beginning on Friday, has finally brought cricket back to India after the Covid-19 pandemic. The chance of qualifying to play the WTC final in June in England for both the sides will provide the series that additional luster and interest.
India need to continue with their positive attitude, a series win will not only be a boost for Test cricket, but a place in the finals of the WTC would be just the icing on the cake that the nation needs. IANS