A Manifesto for World Cricket
Russell Degnan

Previously: Part 1 a b c d e f g h 2 a b c 3 a b

Part 3c. Year 2: The World Test Championship Play-off

A test championship with regional qualification has some clear losers. New Zealand and the West Indies, on recent form, are highly unlikely to qualify above their regional counterparts. For this reason, the sixth spot in each division is determined via a play-off between the next best team in each region (teams not involved in the play-off are free to play marquee tours in the international window).

The format for the play-off is the same as for the world test championship. Each team plays a three test series home and away to the other teams in the play-off. The top team, again based on points, then aggregate margin, and finally net runs per wicket.

The top team in each group moves takes the sixth spot in the world test championship (or second division). The remaining teams are the two seeded teams in the second division (or third). This maintains reasonable regional parity through-out the divisions (a maximum of three teams from any one region).

The play-off system is not perfect. It is possible for the 6th best team to miss out to the 7th (or worse). An alternative system would be to have world, not regional qualifiers - four groups of four, and a play-off between the four second placed sides. There is no inherent improvement in fairness with this approach - the third best side in a group may deserve to be in the finals; it is logistically more problematic, with shorter series, and potentially more overlap in group scheduling; and it doesn't allow rivalries to build up from regular regional championships.

Having said that, teams from strong regions are at a disadvantage with this approach. The fourth placed teams in the Asian and Southern regions (normally Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) are generally excluded, although they will meet the two losing test sides in division two. Conversely, the sides on the border of the world group get meaningful and competitive fixtures against other test sides, with quite reasonable variety. An examination of the past 30 years indicates that the competitiveness and variety of the play-offs is quite high. Based on the ratings at the time, all the top 8 test teams would have failed to qualify on at least two occasions; would have qualified either directly or through the play-offs on at least 10 occasions; and would have been seeded at least once. Zimbabwe too, would have taken part in the play-offs at least twice, and been seeded first in the second division. But perhaps just as importantly, financially speaking, the major teams are almost always present in the finals.

Dark colours represent regional or play-off winners; yellow represents play-off participants; boxed teams are seeded teams.

Cricket - Manifesto 25th February, 2010 18:06:35   [#]