My latest article about Test XIs we should have played looks at a series that actually happened in the 21st century: the Australian tour of India in 2012-13. Or, as I call it, the worst selected squad of all time.
The witching hour for the World Test Championship is upon us.
The cricketing gods have talked to the weather gods and cricket will (hopefully) be played.
For most nations, the WTC timing has worked well. Australia and England took advantage of the timeframe to schedule as many Tests as possible. Australia scheduled 19 and England scheduled 21. New Zealand, on the other hand, took the opposite approach. They played just 13 Tests with six at home and seven away.
The disparity in all of this is that it is a championship between the nine best sides in the Test rankings. If the top nine sides play each other, how are the other three sides meant to develop? Here are three tweaks that would make the WTC a more robust format and would pique interest in it.
Firstly, every Test side should play at least a two-match Test series at home and away against every other Test side. This would mean that each side would be guaranteed at least 22 Tests in the next three-year cycle.
Working out to roughly seven Test matches a year, each side would have the opportunity to schedule more, if their Future Tours Programme allows, but the International Cricket Council should stipulate that they cannot schedule fewer.
This gives smaller nations like Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan top-level exposure to all the major Test-playing nations and provides clear pathways for their junior players.
Traditional series like the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the Ashes and the Pataudi Trophy could still remain unchanged at their current number of Tests.
Secondly, at least one Test in each series of the WTC should be a day-night Test. If Test cricket is to grow in popularity across all the nations, attendance at matches is crucial.
In Australia, Tests between England and India often sell out, but other touring nations struggle to pull attendance numbers. Part of the reason for this is the touring nation. How many expatriate West Indians live in Australia, for example?
But another part of it is the scheduling. With most Tests beginning at 10am and finishing by 5-6pm, the average full-time worker who can afford to attend may only have one or two days (Saturday or Sunday) in which they can attend.
Allowing them to attend at least part of each day’s play would provide them a better opportunity to see as many or as few days of Test cricket as they wanted to.
Playing a day-night Test also provides each nation with an opportunity to hone their skills in the format.
Thirdly, the Future Tours Programme should be reworked to fit in this expanded WTC. There seems to be a never-ending glut of cricket in the FTP calendar.
Several friends of mine are often grateful when the cricket comes to an end at the end of the year as they feel there is finally a break from cricket bombardment during the Australian Test summer.
For a cricket lover, there is a non-stop smorgasbord of cricket upon which a fan can gorge themselves at any time, provided you have the right subscription service.
Reworking the FTP to reflect the priority of the WTC will help to put all other tournaments into focus.
What could happen is international teams tour for longer, for example playing two Tests, three one-day internationals and three T20s in the tour to give their sides game time for the WTC, the 50-over Cricket World Cup and the T20 World Cup.
This also allows for tournaments such as the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash League and other T20 tournaments to have a dedicated time slot.
To be clear, I am a fan of the World Test Championship exactly the way that it is currently. However, I am a bigger fan of competitive cricket.
While the two sides who were consistently the best over the past three years of the World Test Championship are competing in the final (India and New Zealand), I would like to see changes to involve every Test-playing nation and to increase the quality of the spectacle, whether matches are played on India’s raging turners, England’s green seamers or Australia’s flat decks.
Playing every team in all conditions levels out the playing field and hampers teams like Australia from scheduling more Tests at home on easier batting tracks and ensures that nations like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland get their fair share of Tests.
The World Test Championship provides a good product, but the ICC, like every business, ought to be asking questions of their product to make it better and more robust to grow the game globally.