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The Test World Championship


The ICC ratings system to determine the best test team in the world is spread over too long a time, to provide a focused picture. The number 1 spot is open now, but with no series featuring the top two or three contenders facing each other (aside of Australia vs South Africa), it is impossible to crown one team as the champion of Test cricket.   

Below is a possible option, and there can be many more feasible ways to determine this. A debate would be interesting.

                                                   The format

Like the ODI World Cup, one year in every four should be earmarked as the Test Cricket World Cup year. With one difference - the championship lasts the whole year. The FTP (Future Tours Programme) should be frozen for the year.

The nine Test-playing nations (leaving Zimbabwe out for now) will play each other once at home and once away. That’s 36 Test matches spread over 9 countries. Each country plays 16 Tests through the year – 8 at home, 8 away.

The team playing away gets to pick whether to bat or bowl. The team playing at home gets to pick the city/ground where the match is to be played. This arrangement is designed to neutralize primarily the home advantage. It will also ensure that good result-oriented tracks are used in the matches itself.  
Each test match is of the usual 5 days, with the usual 2 innings. The only departure is that 4 points are given in the event of an outright win. 1 point will be given for obtaining a first innings lead exceeding 75 runs, none  otherwise. These points are designed to discourage flat, dreary tracks. And to prevent rain-marred Test matches from having no significance. Also, these points will ONLY be given if there is no outright result. A bonus point will be given for the winning team in the case of an innings defeat, or in case of wins by margins of 200 or more runs or 9 wickets or 10.
So, these 36 test matches take place throughout the year, between other commitments that all the countries have. A league tally is maintained with the points as explained above.
The top 2 teams emerging from the league (in the unlikely event of a deadlock, it can be broken with some other variable - like maybe runs scored in 16 matches divided by wickets lost) play the final.  
The final consists of 1 test match each in the 2 respective countries (i.e. if India and Australia reach the final, one test is played in India and one in Australia).  
If a clear winner does not emerge we go back to their results on the two occasions they played each other in the league, which will effectively result in evaluating the two teams over 4 Tests against each other. If we still don't get a clear winner we go back to the same points system as adopted in the league stages.  
The tournament can be conducted from March to March to accommodate the possibility of playing the finals in any of the Test playing nations in the month of March. The exception here would be England, and should they make it to the top two, the finals can be held in May or June.  
The winner of this system will doubtless be a deserving champion. It is also likely to produce high-quality, positive cricket, which often does not happen in a regular test series. (Maybe there is a case for regular Test series' to incorporate this points system; rain-marred tests will therefore still have significance, and flat pitches – the bane in sub-continental cricket these days, will be avoided). And the element of luck will also be minimal, as far as advantage from conditions is concerned.

There is also merit in the excitement being spread over the year because

1) Protracted excitement is the nature of test cricket anyway

2) The team that wins would have to be very consistent throughout the year

3) There will be fever pitch excitement as the climax approaches.  
So, at the end, 7 teams would have played 16 test matches each (which in itself will improve standards, especially among the weaker teams), and 2 teams would have played 18 matches. Surely, that is not "too much cricket" if this year is treated specially, insofar as fewer tours being planned that year and fewer ODIs played.
One thing is for sure, this title will be considered much more worthwhile than the ODI World Cup. The Ultimate Prize in cricket, as it were.

But sadly, in this age of commercialisation and greed, is it likely that cricket boards will be willing to put their more profitable bilateral contests on hold? The trick would to be make it commercial all around. Not an impossible task, actually.

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