World Test Championship set to resume amid uncertain outlook
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By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI - The World Test Championship was supposed to usher in a brave new world for cricket's longest format but a fixture backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic means organisers have tough choices to make if the final is to go ahead as planned at Lord's next June.
The most pressing issue for the governing International Cricket Council (ICC) is what to do about the six test series, including four involving Bangladesh, that have been postponed or cancelled because of the pandemic.
The two finalists were supposed to have been identified by March next year but there seems little chance those fixtures can be shoehorned into the tight schedule with test cricket still on hold in South East Asia due to Covid-19.
The ICC said last month it was consulting with member nations on the way forward but that it remained committed to hosting the final in June at Lord's.
"There is nothing new to add to that," an ICC spokesman told Reuters recently when asked for an update on the situation.
The WTC was launched by the ICC last year with the aim of adding context to the test game. Tests are played over five days, making it virtually impossible to hold a standalone showpiece like the World Cups in the shorter formats.
The nine top test teams were scheduled to play six series each over two years in the WTC, with the top two making the showcase final in London.
India and Australia, who meet in a blockbuster series next month, are currently the top two with England in third.
A clearer picture of where the ICC will go with their new competition should emerge from the board meeting later this month, with the governing body considering splitting points for the matches which could not be played.
Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, though, is among those saying it would be fairer to extend the championship.
"I'd still prefer to see the ICC complete the championship with all teams completing their scheduled matches," Misbah said in an interview on the Cricket Baaz channel.
"I think the matches can be rescheduled and every team should get a fair chance to take a shot at qualifying for the final," the former Pakistan captain said.
The stop-start championship will see plenty of action in December, with India in Australia and New Zealand hosting West Indies for a two-test home series, while Sri Lanka will arrive in South Africa for a two-test series.
Cricket Australia Chairman Earl Eddings wants the WTC final to go ahead as planned.
"COVID has had a big impact on that around the efficacy of countries being able to play against each other," Eddings said lat week.
"But I certainly think for the growth of test cricket we need to have something to aim for ... This gives everybody relevance and it gives us some context."
Cricket historian Boria Majumdar said the ICC has other commitments and extending the current cycle is not an option.
The impact of the pandemic means some teams will not be happy with the decisions made, he added.
"This world is in a very different condition at this point in time and one or two teams may feel hard done by, but that's how it is," he told Reuters. (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Nick Mulvenney and Peter Rutherford)