A Knockout Idea

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What are cricket blogs for other than to relay drunken conversations you’ve had in the pub? That’s the joy of editing your own site. You can take a half serious conversation (which originally stemmed from a discussion of the Joshua versus Klitschko fight), turn it into a proposition, and then ask hundreds of fellow cricket lovers to shoot it down.

So here’s my idea … well it’s not actually my idea (it was my mate’s idea and it’s not quite good enough for me to crave ownership of it) but it’s an idea worth discussing nevertheless:

If we’re looking for ways to breathe new life into test cricket, and a world test championship is proving too difficult to implement, why not make test cricket like boxing? In other words, you create an undisputed champion (currently India as they sit atop of the rankings), and then they have to defend their crown all over the world.

As soon as someone beats them, their conquerers immediately become the new champions, and then the new champion team has to defend its crown all over the world … and so on.

Now obviously this idea is a little crude, and more than a little nuts, but it does actually have some merits … albeit merits that seemed a lot more compelling after five pints.

For starters, there would be a more interesting narrative to any series involving the champions. For example, when India play in Sri Lanka the story would be “can the plucky Sri Lankans dethrone the Indian juggernaut? The fact that a Sri Lankan win would make the home side world champions might create more interest (both locally and around the world) and help to sell tickets.

Another benefit is that the test championship mace would suddenly become a more accessible and realistic goal for developing teams. We might see less powerful cricketing nations targeting series against the champions. They might even rest their best players for it.

The prospect of taking on the champions, and becoming part of a champion team oneself, might even persuade the ever increasing pool of T20 mercenaries to return home for a showdown against the best team in the world. Wouldn’t it be great if the West Indies’ globetrotters suddenly turned up for a home series against India? It would certainly create more interest.

What’s more, test cricket would surely become more unpredictable. Inconsistent and rebuilding teams would have a huge incentive to raise their games when a couple of good performances might see them seize the world title … just like one inspired performance (or lucky punch) can catapult underdogs heavyweights like Hasim Rahman to stardom.

Although this system might seem a little harsh on the vanquished champions, who might see years of hard work unravel within a couple of weeks on subcontinental bunsens, the ‘boxing system’ will at least keep them motivated on tours that might otherwise seem arduous and unappetising.

What’s more, knowing that one’s world title is on the line in every series might actually keep a team motivated, encourage innovation, and push them on to achieve ever greater feats. One bad series and it’s all over … until you have a chance to snatch the championship back of course.

The other benefit of this system is that once a champion is beaten, and a less complete team (or one with more obvious flaws) becomes champion, the rest of the world would smell blood and start lining up to have a pop – realising that they too have a realistic shot at the title. Suddenly a team’s schedule would take on new meaning as fans scurry through the fixture list looking for windows of opportunity.

Obviously the situation might sometimes create a test mace merry-go-round, with the championship changing hands on a regular basis, but is this necessarily a bad thing? Besides, it would surely only be a matter of time until an undisputed champion emerges – one worthy of the title – who defends its crown over a prolonged period of time.

Now I’m not going to pretend that this idea is perfect. Some of its holes are larger than the gap between Phil Tufnell’s bat and pad. You can talk about scheduling, and how frustrating it would be if the reigning champions unexpectedly lost just before they played England, in the comments below.

The other alternative, of course, would be to shorten test cricket from five days to say, three hours, and rename the teams after cities. England would become the London Lager Louts, Australia the Canberra Can Swillers, and India the Delhi Dare You To Down Its.

Drink five pints and suddenly it becomes an inspired idea.

James Morgan

21 Comments

  1. I take it this would be over a series, not one off tests? You’d need to get the tour programme in place first, to stop cowardly boards (I never said BCCI) rigging things so their “tough” series were at home. I think I’d rather have a test championship (in England, because you’d get the crowds – and England would have a better chance of winning!). Unless, as you say, you get a team on a streak, the mace would change hands too often (India are excellent at home, but away?). You don’t often get teams who are miles ahead of the rest these days: there have only been 2 in my lifetime (WI 1976-1990 and Aus 1994-2004), and the former didn’t have as much opposition (South Africa weren’t playing and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh weren’t test nations).

  2. Interesting Idea, but say India got the mace then continued to make sure they never faced anyone likely to beat them? Its a pretty common story in boxing

    One Idea would be to have a Sub-continent Champion and a Non subcontinent champion, While being ‘at home’ in boxing is an advantage it isn’t the advantage it is in Cricket so the ICC would have to start taking a more active role in pitches like they do for ICC Events.

    Problem with the West Indies globetrotters is that they are not very good Test players, Gayle aside who played 100 Tests has by the time he retired not fit/young enough for 5 day matches. Who wants to see Dwayne Smith Average 17?

    Thought this was a rather interesting and radical idea http://www.espncricinfo.com/blogs/content/story/969283.html

    • James Morgan on

      They might have to create a schedule with symmetry where everyone plays everyone else in the same number of matches over a set period of time. This alone would probably make the idea a non-starter at the ICC 😉

      Sadly franchise test teams is probably more likely!

  3. It’s a nice idea but the elephant in the room here is the way overseas tours work, you can’t really be a challenger and “throw down” at the current champion. Then the other issue is the abysmal performances of all Away test nations, it’s very rare you actually get a competitive home series now, it’s usually dominance from the home side

    • James Morgan on

      Maybe the system would encourage teams to take away form more seriously?
      No point beating everyone at home if you’re just going to lose your title the next time you play away.

  4. Cricket administrators may become crass, money-grabbing buffoons like boxing promoters.

    Unlike what they are today….

  5. I reckon a good blog is indeed like going down the local and chewing the cud with your mates.

    I once attended a management course where the tutor advised that brainstorming sessions were usually more productive after a liquid lunch.

    So full marks for the idea.

    Now trying to imagine two boxers going at it for 5 days or ECB calling off a match because Anderson has a sore body

  6. Imagine if this system was adopted from the very 1st Test Match in 1877. Who would be the Test Cricket Champions today? I could easily go through the records and check. But am too lazy…

    Its no worse than any of the ICC led suggestions. It also costs nothing to implement. So, despite obvious flaws.. not actually a bad idea!

    • I’m pretty sure some-one did just that and published the article on cricinfo many years ago. And I’m pretty sure one of the so called “minnows” (maybe Zimbabwe) turned out to be the world champion.

    • “It also costs nothing to implement.” Good point, Garry. Meaning we don’t actually need the ICC to d this: we can do it ourselves.

      Let’s declare India the current Full Toss World Champions, and keep on awarding the title every time the holders’ lose a series. Maybe Tweet the players or something?

      • James Morgan on

        I approve of this message … as long as the teams pay the blog a sponsorship fee upwards of a million quid.

        • Now we really are getting into Boxing territory. May be they can also bung us a few quid to compile the rankings as well.
          Before we know it we will have 10 different champions… all at the same time!!

  7. Why even wait for it to be organised by the ICC? Why not just declare a Challenge Cup into existance and promote it? Go back through the records and see who would have held the Challenge Cup over the past 100 years and declare it each time it passes. I guess the WIndies would have had it for much of the 1980s, the Australians for the 1990s and no doubt some diligent stats obsessive could work out who theoretically would hold it now. After a few years of cricket fans talking about it sooner of later the powers that be would pick it up.

    Challenge Cups are not that unknown in cricket. The Plunkett in NZ was originally a Challenge competition.

  8. How about having different weight divisions. Aus, SA, Ind, Eng and Pak could compete for the heavyweight crown and the others for the lightweight!

    Also we could have several versions of the titles. India could split off and organise the WCA titles, England would run the WCC version, and Australia the ICF!

    • ” India could split off”.

      Reports in the Indian media are making it clear how close we just came to that happening – at Sunday’s SGM, with the CoA demanding unanimity for a CT boycott, there were only 5 of the BCCI’s constituent units who voted against the boycott.

  9. I don’t expect that anyone will see this, but I’ve just seen one of the most cynical examples of cheating I’ve ever seen on a cricket field. Mumbai Indians were chasing an unlikely target, but Kieron Pollard was going well, hitting sixes. He squirted a ball out towards long off and set for for two, but he touched down his bat at least 2 feet short of the popping crease. He was called for “one short”, but he was back on strike. How far does the batsman have to get up the pitch for one of the runs to be counted?

    • I’ve found Note 3.3 to Law 19:
      If either or both batsmen deliberately run short, the umpire is justified in calling “dead ball” and disallowing any runs attempted or scored as soon as he sees that the fielding side have no chance of dismissing either batsman under the Laws.
      I think this should have been applied in this instance.

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