The precursors to the inaugural World Test Championship
The final of the inaugural World Test Championship will be played between India and New Zealand in Southampton, England from June 18. The inaugural edition of the unique tournament saw teams earn points from bilateral series against Test playing nations over the past couple of years, with the top two sides eventually qualifying for the final.
However, it hasn't been a concentrated multi-team tournament like an ODI or T20 World Cup although there have been a couple of attempts previously to have multi-team Test tournaments in a much shorter span of time. We take a brief look at these:
Asian Test Championship
One of the standout moments from the inaugural Asian Test Championship in 1999 has to be Shoaib Akhtar hurtling in at Eden Gardens and rattling Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar’s stumps with successive yorkers.
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka played each other once each and it was followed by a final with all four Tests being wrapped up within four weeks. Saeed Anwar’s epic second-innings 188 set up Pakistan’s 46-run win over India, with Akhtar taking eight wickets in the match.
The next two matches were drawn and the final was played on neutral territory in Dhaka, where Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq’s double centuries condemned Sri Lanka to an innings defeat.
Sri Lanka returned the favour in the next edition of the tournament in 2001-02, beating Pakistan by eight wickets in the final at Lahore. India did not take part in that edition due to political tension with Pakistan. Bangladesh had achieved Test status by then and were the third team. There was never a third edition as getting all four teams to spare a window in a packed international calendar proved elusive.
This was an idea that proved to be way ahead of its time. Australia, England and South Africa -- the only three Test-playing sides at the time -- got together to compete over three rounds for a total of nine Tests in England in 1912. The tournament stretched over nearly three months and was ruined by extreme wet weather.
Moreover, even before it could begin, the triangular tournament was hampered by several leading Australian players such as captain Clem Hill, Victor Trumper and Warwick Armstrong, refusing to tour England following a dispute with the Australian board.
Furthermore, the South Africans, relying on spinners who were a handful on the matting strips back home, found the going difficult on English pitches. The result was either hopelessly one-sided or washed-out games as England finished on top eventually.
Public interest inevitably waned. "Nine Tests provide a surfeit of cricket," noted the Daily Telegraph, "and contests between Australia and South Africa are not a great attraction to the British public." Wisden remarked prophetically that "the experiment is not likely to be repeated for many years to come.”
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