India captain Virat Kohli on Monday said the ICC World Test Championship, that gets underway on August 1, will add context to the longest format and give it a much-needed boost.
The inaugural edition will see the elite nations -- Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies -- fight for top honours across 71 Test matches in 27 series over the next two years.
The top two teams will then play the final, scheduled to be to held in June 2021 in the United Kingdom.
“I think it is a great thing for Test cricket to be honest. We all were looking forward to it because we all felt that after one big series or tour, a one-off Test or a couple of Tests were not apt but I think the Test Championship gives a lot of context to all the Test cricket that we want to play,” Kohli said at the West Indies tour’s pre-departure press conference.
“Interest of the fans will also build going for the results. Test cricket really needed a boost. Players were putting the effort but from a global point of view, Test cricket needed an incentive attached to it which is presented in the form of Test Championship.
“So now every session, every game will be more intense. It will be challenging but it will be all the more exciting. All the teams will enjoy through this entire journey,” he added.
The opening day of the Ashes series between England and Australia at Edgbaston on Thursday marks the beginning of the World Test Championship.
India will play two Tests during the tour of West Indies and those will be part of the championship.
“After the highs of a tournament like World Cup, it is only logical that the focus will shift to T20 World Cup but the Test Championship will keep the interest in Test cricket going as well.
“So that’s the nature of international cricket today that you have to compromise on one format to keep the other two relevant. And I am glad that people have thought about Test cricket to keep it relevant through Test championship,” said Kohli.
Each team will play three home and three away series and will be awarded points for every game.
Each series will count for 120 points, distributed over the number of matches in a series. For example, a two-match series will mean 60 points for each Test while a three-match series will give 40 points to each match. A tie will be 50 percent of the points available, whilst a draw will be a 3:1 points ratio.
For Kohli, nothing comes above the longest format of the game.
“When you are focussing on T20, you can say let’s forget about the other two formats and just make the sport exciting for the people to watch and entertain. But for the sheer joy of playing cricket, executing your skills as cricketer, Test cricket is the most important format.
“And for me nothing comes above Test cricket. So the fact that the Test championship will keep the excitement going,” said the Indian skipper.
Kohli said that the Indian team has done really well in recent years and would be fancying its chances in the Test championship.
“Test cricket is very challenging and coming out on top in the traditional form is always highly satisfying. The Indian team has done really well in recent years and will be fancying its chances in the championship,” he said.
England’s leading Test wicket taker James Anderson said Test cricket was the “pinnacle of our sport”.
“It is the very essence of cricket and the majority of players want to strive to play the purist form of the game,” Anderson, said.
“The ICC World Test Championship is another brilliant initiative for the sport, adding context and relevance to every Test series. Every Test matters, but even more so now,” he added.
Organised by the Member Boards, the matches will be played just like any bilateral series, but with the added context of a competition and one champion team.
Opponents were scheduled by collective agreement of the competing members, with a number of the fixtures already committed within existing member rights agreements.
“The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup this summer showed just how important it is for every game to count and for the world’s best teams to go head-to-head,” said Geoff Allardice, ICC General Manager - Cricket Operations.
“The World Test Championship will bring relevance and context to bilateral Test cricket over the next two years, creating a pinnacle event for the five-day format, just as the World Cups for men and women do in the ODI and T20I formats,” he added.