England's Stuart Broad celebrates the wicket of Australia's David Warner during Day 1 of the first Ashes test at Edgbaston on Thursday. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
England's Stuart Broad celebrates the wicket of Australia's David Warner during Day 1 of the first Ashes test at Edgbaston on Thursday. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
Cricket writer Stuart Hess.
Cricket writer Stuart Hess.

JOHANNESBURG  The World Test Championship is a very good idea. It’s establishment is a little late, but rather that, than not at all.

Test cricket needed this kind of context.

For too long it had been the team which won The Ashes that was deemed the best in the world. When that was unveiled as a farce, India would claim world supremacy but the basis for that supposed hegemony was their outstanding form on home-soil.

The No 1 status rang a bit hollow when they were beaten in South Africa in 2017/18 and later that year in England, although a bit of their reputation was rescued when they won in Australia.

The World Test Championship will attempt to eliminate that kind of debate.

The structure for the inaugural competition is not perfect.

For one all nine teams don’t face each other.

In South Africa’s case that means no series’ against New Zealand and Bangladesh in the two year period ahead of the grand final at Lord’s in 2021.

That’s due to a quirk in the Future Tours Programme around which the format and schedule for the competition had to be built.

At some point in the future hopefully that can be fixed although it will be a significant challenge, given that series’ like The Ashes and those involving England and India are now regarded as ‘iconic series’’ and therefore are played over five matches.

In addition there’s the other three Test playing nations; Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe, who for a variety of reasons will not be included in the initial tournament and hopefully room can be found for the first two to play against the other tier one nations more often and in Zimbabwe’s case that their awful administrative problems can be resolved to allow them back into the fray.

From today attention shifts firmly to the World Test Championship when the first Ashes match starts at Edgbaston.

The Test format has needed some proper gauge to measure who is the best to provide, as many of the players have stated, proper context and even relevance.

Test cricket has a very hard time garnering attention.

It is in many respects a ridiculous game - played over five days, with everyone dressed in white, breaks for tea and one possible outcome where there is neither a winner or a loser - but it is a very demanding one too, asking plenty from mind, body and spirit.

As it seeks to grab attention amidst the plethora of distractions in modern life, Test cricket needs something tangible to hang its hat on - and the ICC hopes the World Test Championship will do just that.

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The 50-over format has seen it status elevated as a result of that gripping World Cup final, while T20 cricket has numerous leagues around the world that create excitement.

The World Test Championship needs to work to drag the five-day format into a new era.

Matches between the top sides have in the last decade certainly provided plenty of drama and the quality and skill is as good as at any point in the 142-year history of the format.

Having a competition like this will only enhance that quality and skill and should make for a better product.

@shockerhess


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