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WTC 2021-23: SA or India most likely to join Australia in the June finals; SL might spring surprise

World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23: South Africa or India most likely to join Australia in the June finals; Sri Lanka might spring surprise. Complete analysis on how India can still make it to WTC 2021023 finals.

India tour of Bangladesh, Tests, 2022-23: Shakib Al Hasan, KL Rahul posing with the trophy ahead of the first Test _ Walking Wicket (Source_ ©BCB/BCCI/Twitter)
India will play two test matches against Bangladesh (Source: ©BCB/BCCI/Twitter)

Even though it isn't the IPL, an ODI or a T20 World Cup, the cricketing pundits should get their calculators out. It is for the test of the best, the World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23. In a ranking of nine Test nations, only one can stand tall above the rest and claim the Test mace. The question that now arises is: which two teams can make it into the finals in the first place?


Understanding the WTC Points System

In contrast to regular mega events, the points system in the WTC is not as straightforward as one might have hoped. Rather, it is as complicated as Einstein’s theory of relativity. Well, it's relatively easy but still difficult for a layman to understand. Instead of the commonly used points system, WTC’s approach is a percentage method. i.e., any team which wins a match receives 12 points per match and 100 per cent of the points (PCT); a tie gives both teams six points, and thereby fifty pc of the points. But if there is a draw between the two teams, each team will share a total of 4 points and 33.33 percentage of points between them. A loss results in a self-explanatory zero points. Refer to the table below.


And over and above that, points will be docked for slow over rates (one point for each over bowled after the dedicated completion time slot). So irrespective of the number of wins or draws, the higher the percentage of points, the higher the team's ranking in the WTC charts.

Points Available Per Match

Percentage of Points

Win

12

100

Tie

6

50

Draw

4

33.33

Loss

0

0

*Teams will be ranked on percentage of points won

*For slow over rates, teams will lose one championship point for each over short of the stipulated time


3…2..1 Kaboom: Eliminated!

Let’s first talk about the teams that have already been eliminated from the race for glory. Bangladesh have played a total of nine matches, winning just one, and hence they stand at the bottom of the pile with 13.33 PCT. Hence, Bangladesh's march toward the final two WTC towers is understandably over.


New Zealand, the first WTC winners, have been the biggest disappointment in this WTC cycle, ranking eighth with 25.93 PCT after winning only two matches. New Zealand lost a total of six Test matches and hence find themselves out of the race to qualify for the WTC 2021-23 finals, which means a new champion will hold the Test mace this year.


Pakistan’s recent Test series loss to England by a margin of 0-2 (with 1 more match to go in their home series against the visitors) takes them back to Karachi Airport instead of Lord’s Stadium, as they are knocked out of the title race with 42.44 PCT, winning 4 and losing 5 matches in this cycle.


The ever-so-disappointing West Indies are also out of the race with just 40.91 PCT. The ever-energised and aggressive England 2.0 are also shown the door, courtesy of a terrible first half of this cycle where they lost seven, drew four and won just one game out of their 12 Tests. Even with the win against Pakistan and only one more game remaining, the maximum they can achieve is 46.91 PCT assuming they win the third Test against Pakistan.


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Position

Team

PCT(%)

Points

W

L

D

No. of series

Penalty

1

Australia

75

108

8

1

3

4

0

2

South Africa

60

72

6

4

0

4

0

3

Sri Lanka

53.33

64

5

4

1

5

0

4

India

52.08

75

6

4

2

4

-5

5

England

44.44

112

9

8

4

6

-12

6

Pakistan

42.42

56

4

5

2

5

0

7

West Indies

40.91

54

4

5

2

5

-2

8

New Zealand

25.93

28

2

6

1

4

0

9

Bangladesh

13.33

16

1

8

1

5

0

Which teams are still in the race for the finals?

A total of four teams are still in contention for the two spots up for grabs in the finals. The current table toppers are Australia with 75 PCT, followed by South Africa with 60 PCT at number two, and then the two Asian teams - Sri Lanka with 53.33 PCT and India with 52.08 PCT, at numbers three and four, respectively.


How can India make it to the finals?

India are currently fourth on the points table. However, if India win all six remaining Tests in this cycle -- two on the road against Bangladesh, away from home, and four at home against Australia -- their percentage points will rise to 68.06 from the current 52.08. This will ensure they remain comfortably atop the points table.


If India win all their four games against Australia then the latter’s position will drop, and that opens the gate for South Africa and Sri Lanka. If India finish with a 5-1 win-loss record, their percentage will still be a healthy 62.5, which will still keep them in contention. However, if they lose two games or or if they win three and draw three games, then their percentage will drop to 56.94, and their faith will be left in Sri Lanka and South Africa’s hands. Even if India win four games and draw two, they will still be better placed than the other teams in the race.


India will also have to take care of the over rates as if they fall short on that count then they might lose some critical points in the process.


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Under Dean Elgar, South Africa is yet to lose a series in Test Cricket in 2022 _ Walking Wicket (Photo ©Getty Images)
Under Elgar, South Africa is yet to lose a series in Test Cricket in 2022 (Photo ©Getty Images)

Will the Lankan Lions bite the dust?

Sri Lanka are currently at 53.33 PCT, with just two away Tests in New Zealand to go in this cycle. Given the current state of Sri Lankan cricket and their struggles with the red ball, beating the current World Test Champions in their own backyard will be a monumental task for the Lankan Lions.


If Sri Lanka do manage to win both games, their PCT will rise to 61.11; if the series finishes 1-1, it will drop by a whisker to 52.78. However, Sri Lanka will be aiming to win both matches and hoping for Australia to be victorious against both South Africa and India. They would also hope for the West Indies to win against South Africa, which would be nothing short of a fairy tale for Sri Lanka if it ever happened.


Protea fire? Can they win their second ICC trophy?

Yes, definitely. South Africa do have a relatively good chance of making it to the finals, at least. South Africa are currently second on the points table, with two series to play: three Tests in Australia (away) and two at home against the West Indies next year. If they win their home matches and win 3-0 or win one and draw two (1-0) against Australia, they would still be clear of the 60 PT mark and hence in line to make it to the final two.


But if South Africa win at home and lose all of their away Tests, they will drop to 53.33. Hence, they need at least one win in Australia: a 1-2 series defeat followed by a 2-0 series win will lift them to 60 PCT, which will keep them in contention. But moreover, like always, destiny will have its say in South Africa’s chances of making it to the finals, as they will have to depend on other teams even if they lose one of their remaining five matches.


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WTC 2021-23: Australia hold the first position in WTC'23 Points table after 4 series | Walking Wicket (Source_ ©Getty Images)
Australia hold the first position in WTC'23 Points table (Source_ ©Getty Images)

Do Australia already have one hand on the finale ticket?

Australia are comfortably on top of the table with 75 PCT, but they are not still not guaranteed a finals berth. If they lose each of their remaining seven matches in this cycle, their percentage will drop to 47.37. All things said and done, Australia have a golden chance to seal their place in the finals in their home series against South Africa.


When the Aussies start on what could be a potentially difficult tour of India, if they win all three home Tests against South Africa, they will finish with a minimum 63.16 PCT, assuming that they lose all four Tests against India. That will still ensure that the Aussies register a top-two finish. with only India being ahead of them if the latter win against Bangladesh as well.


The WTC has been a generous introduction in an attempt to save Test cricket, and it is already turning cricket pundits' heads around with various combinations of who could finally make it to the finals. No matter which team makes it to the final, what will be interesting to see are the preparations before the mega event.


As the WTC 2021-23 Final is expected to take place in June, just weeks after the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, where India’s megastars and superstars from around the globe will feature, even if India make it to the finals, will we see a repeat of their WTC 2019-21 Final where they suffered due to lack of preparation and some last minute faulty decisions regarding team combination?


Or will teams call back their Test specialists before the IPL concludes? Will India’s team management finally go for a different ‘red ball’ team vs ‘white ball’ team? Well, all these interesting prospects lie ahead of us in the coming season, and the cricket fanatics are in for a roller coaster ride in the next 7 months, to say the least.


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