The inaugural World Test Championship final saw underdogs New Zealand running away with the mace, while India has to suffer their third straight loss in the ICC tournament finals. The one-off Test for the WTC final served as great entertainment for Test cricket. However, it was not a true test of a great Test side. In fact, a three-Test series would have been ideal to decide the eventual champions of the World Test Championship.
Post the loss, Indian captain Virat Kohli was quoted as saying,
“It has to be a test of character over three Tests - which team has the ability to come back in the series or totally blow away the other team.”
Kohli has a point as any great team can have a bad session or two, and lose the plot, and the one-off final.
The Test itself means testing a player’s capability, skills, temperament over five days. And a World Test Championship to decide the best Test team cannot be judged just over five days. It has to be three-Test series to decide the best Test team, if not more.
And to be fair to the Indian team, they started the WTC final without any match practice. On the other hand, New Zealand was coming off a Test series win against England in the same country and was a better match-fit squad than the Indian team.
Moreover, the Indian Test team is always poor starters and struggles to win the first Test in a series, but it comes back strongly to win the remaining Tests and the series.
In the last two series India played in Australia and at home against England were won after India lost the first Test. India has also won a three or four-match Test series after losing the first match twice more before – once each against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in 2015 and against Australia at home in 2017.
Hence, India has had the best chance to come back in the remaining two Tests, if the WTC has had been three-Test series, and win the mace. But alas, it was not meant to be.
Hence, the ICC should make amends and change the rules regarding a one-off Test to decide WTC winners. If it is done, it would be fair to both the finalists, as they will be judged not just on five days but over 15 days of hard-fought Test cricket. It will then decide the true great Test team.
Taking a slice from cricket history, in the 1983 World Cup final, underdogs India defeated favorites and two times Champions, West Indies, who had had an off day in the title round. Although an ODI final is a different ball game, it is important to recollect that the tri-series in Australia called the VB series is always decided by three-game finals. If a three-team ODI series can have three-game finals, then why not a World Test Championship.
However, New Zealand deserving winners of the one-off WTC final
There is nothing to take away from New Zealand’s victory in the WTC final. They were the better team on those six days of cricket. But they too would not be hesitant in playing a three-match Test series as WTC final in the future as it would give them a chance to bounce back into the series if they lose the first game.
Cover image: New Zealand players celebrate the WTC final victory. Photo courtesy: ICC FB page