India are running away with the World Test Championship already and it's only four months since the two-year long league has started. After thumping West Indies in West Indies, South Africa and now Bangladesh at home, India lead the World Test Championship points table with 300 points with six wins in six Test matches.
This could well become 360 points after they complete their now almost certain win at Eden Gardens in the pink ball Test. The next best placed teams in the points table are New Zealand and Sri Lanka with 60 points apiece. That's a margin of 300 whopping points India have in the points table and it nearly assures them a place in the finals of the World Test Championship in 2021.
There's no doubt that India have been the best Test team going around in recent times. That they have managed to win two series with their premier strike bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, missing talks of a different level of domination. But run through the WTC schedule and you can't help but feel the stars are aligned - or were made to align - in favour of India.
This is India's WTC draw for this 2019-2021 cycle.
July-August 2019: West Indies in West Indies - 2 away Tests
October-November 2019: South Africa in India - 3 home Tests
November 2019: Bangladesh in India - 2 Tests
February 2020: New Zealand in New Zealand - 2 Tests
December 2020: Australia in Australia - 4 Tests
January-February 2021: England in India - 5 Tests
At first glance, it's pretty much good. They play England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, who are rated among the better teams in Test cricket.
Dig deeper, though, and the problem - which also involves a discussion on the WTC points system - is visible. The World Test Championship points system is such that each series is given 120 points irrespective of the number of Tests. So, a win in a two-match series equals 60 points while a win in a five-match series equals (120/5) 24 points.
India's home Tests and the fairly easy draw involves the series against West Indies away, one home series against Bangladesh and a home series against South Africa, who are pretty much on the decline and not so competent in Asian conditions these days.
That's a total of seven Tests spread across three series at home. One win in the series against West Indies and Bangladesh has given India 60 points. One win in the series against South Africa is 40 points.
Now go to their away fixtures. India don't play Tests at home after the pink ball Test against Bangladesh. The whole of 2020, there are no home Tests for India. They are on supposedly tough tours of New Zealand and Australia before returning home to India to face England in 2021, their last series in the WTC cycle.
The trick here is that of these three series, the only one where India stands to lose their hold in the WTC is the one against New Zealand away from home. Let's see why.
Australia recently went to England to draw the Ashes series 2-2. They were leading the series 2-1 at one point before conceding the final Test although they did take the urn back home.
Now, the Ashes is a five-match series. A win in this series equals 24 points and both England and Australia took 48 points with a win. A draw is one-third the points for a win per the WTC points system. So, both teams shared 8 points apiece for the one drawn game in the series giving both a total of 56 points in the WTC from that series.
Now, the points system does not take into account home or away Tests. So, Australia actually went to England and won two Test matches - aside from managing a draw in another - away from home and return with only 56 points. On the contrary, India thumped Bangladesh at home in the first Test and won 60 points.
Now, India's long series' in the WTC are against Australia - 4 Tests away - and England - 5 Tests at home. Even if India manage to lose two matches each in both the series, they are only missing out on collecting 108 points in all. On the other hand, by beating Bangladesh 2-0 at home, they get 120 points.
It's a fairly easy draw that India have, and also one that will certainly see them make the finals of the inaugural World Test Championship in 2021.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Indranil Mukherjee