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Ranking System Outlook

In the late 90s and early 2000s, the home and away dominance of one cricket team was comparable to the American superhuman soldier John Rambo in Rambo III who stood up against the atheistic ‘commie’ infidels and supported the Afghan Mujahideen. In 2021, while it looks like “Rambo’s” democratic intervention against Soviet excesses (with their draconian and outdated ideology which imposed regressive diktats like giving education and equal rights to women) didn’t end so well, the Australian cricket team remains a strong team in the world arena.

But there is a difference between the ‘Rambo’ days of Australian cricket and the present.

First, is the lack of international trophies in their cabinet, even as they enviously look at the World Test Championship mace securely held across the Tasman (Unconfirmed news reports suggest that the New Zealand Parliament has voted for the mace to be protected in a top-secret vault against possible threats from mischievous elements). Second, unlike the Australians of the past who would walk into unchartered territory (West Indies 1995, India 2004) and conquer them after dominating the proceedings, the Australians of the present find it tough away from home.

The ‘away’ record is an important element of Test cricket, especially given its relative lack of ‘world’ trophies as compared to other formats. Domination at home is easier to achieve, however, it is away from home where the real strengths are tested. If a team is to be called world-class, it should be good across conditions.

At present, there are teams that possess the arsenal to challenge all teams when they tour (Australia, India, England, and New Zealand), however, there is not one team that can lay a claim to having achieved dominance across the globe.

The Test match playing nations can be divided into four rough groupings: The top teams which have been mentioned above, The middle sides (Pakistan, South Africa) which have the potential and structure to challenge all teams but are being kept back by one reason or the other, The strugglers (West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh) who have faced many crises in recent times which has reflected in their cricketing fortunes and the bottom three (Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, and Ireland) comprising of newer nations or those which have suffered long-term troubles.

It is a given that the teams from the first two groups would dominate at home against sides from the other groupings. (Though there are upsets, such as Sri Lankan victory over South Africa in 2019)

More factors come into play away from home, in conditions which aren’t best suited to the tourists. Then there are circumstances peculiar to a team such as England, who haven’t been the strongest at home or away, but can always spring a surprise (victories over Sri Lanka away from home) or India, who have found the going good in Asia, Africa, Australia, and West Indies but haven’t touched quite the same form in England and New Zealand.

Having stated the above, the question that comes to mind in the context of World Test Championship encounters is, should ‘away’ contests be given greater importance than ‘home’ encounters? This isn’t something novel or revolutionary. That ancient war ritual turned sport, Football, uses an ‘away goal’ rule. Even Virat Kohli has suggested double points for away wins in the past.

For some of the ‘Top’ sides, it probably doesn’t matter much, but for the lower-ranked teams, it can make a world of a difference. For example, if the West Indies play to the best of their skills to beat South Africa (whom they have beaten only once away from home) in South Africa, shouldn’t that win count more than home victories? The players and fans would definitely treat it as a special win, how about the WTC points table reflecting the importance of this win.

The linking of an increase in WTC points for away encounters can also make for more exciting cricket, with teams prioritizing away success and thus, ensuring that they aren’t one-trick ponies.

At the same time, the administrators could also explore the possibility of a scaled points system, wherein, a lower ranked side gets a ‘bonus’ or extra points for their win over high-ranked sides. Of course, to use this in the WTC itself would be an attack of the egalitarian principles of the cricketing community.

How about using these bonus points for setting up the next WTC schedule? If Sri Lanka beat India, Australia, and New Zealand in a particular WTC cycle, they deserve more series against higher-ranked teams in the next cycle. This ‘bonus’ points system could be solely allocated to teams below a particular ranking (say 4) in the ICC Test rankings. Obviously, an away win here too would garner more points to the team.

Such a system could be eventually evolved to also serve the teams which at present aren’t a part of the WTC cycle. If a side like Ireland can consistently challenges the likes of Bangladesh, West Indies, Pakistan, etc. then it can be promoted to be a part of the WTC cycle. Thus, there can be an added incentive behind every game of Test cricket.

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