We all know that international cricket is played across 3 formats, namely Tests, One Day Internationals (ODI), and T20 Internationals (T20I). For a long time, the World Cups have been organized for limited-overs cricket. 

We have seen the ODI World Cup played since 1975, and the first T20I World Cup commenced in 2007. Since then, we have regularly witnessed the multi-nation extravaganza being rolled out.

Red-ball cricket has been played for more than 145 years, but a World Cup-like tournament for Test cricket, arguably the toughest, was missing. After many deliberations and discussions, the ICC launched a world cup sort of tournament for Test cricket as well, and this is how the World Test Championship started in 2019.

It has successfully completed the first cycle from 2019-2021 despite Covid-19 interruption, and the second edition is set to conclude with the WTC Final to be played between league toppers Australia and second-placed India at the iconic Oval from June 7th onwards.

So on what basis does a team get ranked in a World Test Championship cycle?

World Test Championship Point System

Before going into detail, a basic introduction to the ICC World Test Championship will give you all a clear perspective. WTC is played among the top-9 teams in Test cricket, and the 3 members with Test status that don’t participate here are Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan. The fact that these sides don’t play enough Tests as they do in other forms of the game is a reason.

So, the Test championship as of now is played among New Zealand (the inaugural WTC winners), India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, England, the West Indies, Bangladesh, and South Africa on a home/away basis. Each team plays 3 home and 3 away bilateral series each (a minimum of 2 Tests and a maximum of 5), and a team doesn’t play 2 other member sides in any given cycle. 

Each Test match carries a maximum of 12 points. If a team wins, they get the maximum points; 6 points are awarded for a tied game, and 4 points are given for a drawn game. Like in every other instance, there are no points for a loss. 

Now, there comes a question on how the teams are ranked in the cycle, given the fact that there is a disparity in the number of games a team plays in the 2-year period. 

How is PCT Calculated in the World Test Championship?

To give you more clarity, sides like Australia, England, and India play Test cricket more regularly than other sides like, say, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies. 

Even a side like New Zealand, which won the first-ever World Test Championship, seldom plays a home Test series that has more than 2 Tests, as do Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. A big Test side like South Africa, with a lot of history, finds themselves playing only a handful of Tests. 

The big 3 comprising Australia, England, and India would have easily played close to 20 Tests in this cycle, but the other sides don’t get to play that many. If we go by the current point system, a team winning a Test would get 12 points, and no team apart from Australia, England, and India would reach the WTC Final. 

So, to make it a level playing field, the ICC introduced the concept of PCT (percentage system) to determine the points table in the league stages of the tournament. PCT is nothing but the highest points the team can possibly get and the total points that the team has.

We will look at the WTC 2021-23 points to get a clear picture of what we are talking about.

3South Africa1586118010055.60
5Sri Lanka125611446444.440
6New Zealand134631566038.460
8West Indies134721565434.62
ICC World Test Championship 2021-2023 Cycle Points Table

From the points table, we can easily see the importance of the PCT in a WTC cycle.

Take the example of England, who have played the most number of Test matches in the ongoing cycle with 22. They have won 10 of those and would have accumulated 120 points, as 12 points are given on the occasion of a win, and this would have made them level with India, who have won the same number of games.

By that logic, they would have been in contention to play in the WTC final ahead of South Africa, who finished 3rd, but with the PTC method, they have garnered only 47 percent, well outside the top 3.

England played for a maximum of 228 points (12 * 22) and won 10 (1012), drawing 4 of those (44). So the point attained after a deduction of 12 due to penalty on slow over rates should be 124 (120+16-12) and PCT would be around 47 (124/264*100). This is how the PCT is calculated, and thus a constant system is in place.

With the IPL getting concluded, we are set for a full-throttle international season ahead of us, and it starts with a WTC Final between Australia and India in about weeks’ time before starting the next WTC cycle (2023-2025) afresh in the coming months.

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