Do The Maths: 4 Points For A Test Is Not Enough

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At first I was incredulous. Then I was angry. Yesterday we were told that Sri Lanka’s tour of England will be decided by a points system – an idea I initially supported when it was floated a few weeks ago. Although I’m a purist at heart, I recognised that something needs to change. Test cricket is rapidly becoming an anachronism and I’m generally supportive of any experiment that might help. Andrew Strauss was even making the right noises about promoting test cricket. He still is.

However, when the points weighting was announced yesterday – on the eve of a test series when the big story is Alastair Cook’s attempt to become the youngest player to reach 10,000 test runs – I immediately became suspicious. Why announce it so late in the day? Is this an attempt to bury bad news?

When I saw the details of the ECB’s proposed system – four points for a test win and two points for both an ODIs and a T20 win – I was aghast. My jaw hit the floor. How on earth can a T20 – a game that constitutes a mere 40 overs of happy hitting – be worth half a test match? Test matches are played over 5 days and a possible 450 overs.

I now have huge reservations about this new system. Is it saving test cricket or actually devaluing it? I was initially supportive because I was led to believe that a test win would be worth 5 or 6 points, with an ODI two points and a T20 just one or two. Now we hear that three hours’  entertainment in the evening is going to be worth half as much as five whole days of intense ebb and flow, my whole perspective has changed.

Here’s what Strauss had to say about the new system, which he’s describing as a ‘Super Series’:

We know that Test cricket is being challenged around the world and I certainly feel a responsibility – I think everyone involved in the game should feel a responsibility – to make sure it remains relevant … We feel responsibility to ensure the international game develops and evolves and, central to that, is context and relevance for every game of cricket. We believe the Super Series will provide that context and relevance by connecting the formats and ensuring that every game counts for something more than just itself.

Call me an old cynic, but this sounds more like the ECB want ODIs and T20s at the fag-end of test series (the games few people in this country care about) to have more relevance, rather than test cricket. After all, Strauss has been banging on about taking limited overs cricket more seriously since we was appointed.

Is the new system championing test cricket by making each test worth twice that of a limited overs game, or are the  ECB simply interested in creating a more thrilling finale to every tour – where the Super Series is ultimately decided by three hours of mayhem at The Oval (or the Rose Bowl in Sri Lanka’s case) in front of a raucous crowd? It this just a recipe to get more bums on seats?

What we need now is answers. I’ve given Strauss, Graves and Tom Harrison a relatively easy ride thus far. I’ve generally welcomed their attempts to reform cricket – after all, inertia is not an option. However, I want to know how and why they decided on the current points weighting. Is because Sri Lanka, who probably fancy their chances in the limited overs stuff but not the tests, forced their hand? Or was four points for a test win and two for a T20 what Strauss and Co wanted all along?

I’d like to hear your views on this. Have the ECB got this one wrong? Or do you think that 4 points for test and two for limited overs games is just about right considering the schedule for this tour: 3 tests, 5 ODIs and 1 T20? After all, there are a maximum of 12 points up for grabs in the tests and 12 in the limited overs games too.

Finally, what do you think is the motivation behind the Super Series concept? Is it a genuine response to the declining popularity of test cricket outside the UK and Australasia – the best we can hope for in an imperfect world – or is this just another gimmick designed to drive ticket sales and promote cricket in general, rather than test cricket specifically?

James Morgan

About the author

James Morgan

James is a freelance copywriter, writer and author. He's a founder and co-editor of The Full Toss.

24 comments

  • Gimmick.
    Increase interest in potentially boring ODIs at end of series.
    Money.
    Money.
    Gimmick.
    Money.

    ECB priorities in that order, I’d say. Long term good of the game? Not even on the list….

  • At best, everyone will just completely ignore the whole thing. More likely, it will completely devalue and undermine test match cricket and lead to its rapid decline into irrelevance.

    But that’s the point, isn’t it. Test matches are a faff, best get rid. Didn’t you hear Colin Graves today? He’s down with the kids. He knows the score. Don’t you know no-one watches tv anymore? They just instatwit on facespace or something. What we need are cricket gifs with cats. Anyone who disagrees is out of touch.

  • Completely awful concept and I’ve said from the start it’s not in the good of the game, only the administrations back pockets.. Anyone who was/is deluded into believing they are trying to raise the standards or even save test cricket needs to take a long look st themselves..

    Yet another sad step towards all cricket being a slog fest, it’ll be interesting to see if these slog fests will being enough new people into the game both for tv and participation compared to the amount who will leave

  • The 20 somethings I know are finally getting bored of 2020/50 over cricket and amateur wise, losing interest in short games and even starting to want to play draw cricket !!

    Finally they start to realise slog biff bash bosh is boring

  • Interesting…

    I happen to think it’s probably a good idea actually and am slightly surprised by the reaction.

    In this way, there is an incentive for countries to give greater priorities to their test teams as they will be more meaningful in winning or losing series. Otherwise the risk is for further demarcation and makes dropping tests as a format easier.

    One could argue the points allocation may be off, but the flip-side is that if test points drown out those from the other formats, there will probably a move to reduce the number of test matches in a series and increase the limited format matches.

    Either way, to me this seems like a good move.

    • In this way, there is an incentive for countries to give greater priorities to their test teams as they will be more meaningful in winning or losing series

      Please explain to me how a system that gives two T20s the same weighting as a full test match be “incentivising greater priority to test teams” than the current system, in which only the test matches count towards the test series.

      It is completely and utterly devaluing test cricket. 150 years of history are being held down and pissed on.

      Why don’t we get them playing fucking tiddlywinks? Hey, we lost the test series against Australia 5-0, but if we can beat them 6-0 in shove ha’penny we get to say we’ve won the Ashes? Give me a fucking break. Its either test cricket or its nothing.

      • I think you’ve misunderstood me. I’m referring to the whole tour, and not just the test series.

        If there is a score for the whole tour there is an added incentive to dominate every format in order to be the overall winner. As it is teams e.g. India have a major disparity in their level between the formats, but arguably limited incentive to address their test deficiencies if they only really value winning limited overs series.

        With a prize across a whole tour at stake, it’s likely to raise the profile of the test team in order to compete for the the tour trophy. Like I said the points weightings are debatable, but the principle makes sense.

        With regards your last comment, unfortunately the majority of (particularly younger) cricket fans these days clearly don’t agree and we test fans shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand about this. This is a means to bring greater relevance.

        • But currently the only thing that “counts” is the test series. In terms of “who won the tour”, the test series has a weighting of 100%.

          Combining the points is just reducing that weighting – its actually down to less than 50% now. 100% to <50% is quite clearly reducing in importance and relevance.

          No-one of any age gives three fucks about bilateral ODI or T20 friendlies. They should just get rid of them.

          The principle DOESN'T make any sense. Name me another team sport where the winner of a contest is decided across 3 completely different disciplines. I don't remember the rugby world cup being decided on combining points from union, league and sevens, or the world series teams being made to play slow pitch and fast pitch softball. If you suggested that, fans would think you had been dropped on your head. Why is it only cricket where we have to put up with these fucking idiotic ideas?

          • Okay, I’ll respond despite your tone.

            Where is it mandated as to “who won the tour” being based solely on test series? I can’t see that this is the case, and even if it is I doubt different nations consider this the definitive metric.

            Again, you can’t disregard an entire demographic simply because you don’t disagree with them. A lot of cricket’s global fanbase at the moment clearly revolves around the shorter format.

            A heptathlon in athletics is based around exactly this principle where the winner is decided across seven different disciplines, and these are considerably more distinctive than different cricketing formats.

            Certainly there is a valid point as to how far different formats are co-mingled (e.g. tournaments based on one format only). I happen to think a test “league” system with three global divisions and each team playing each other in their division once a year with relegation, promotion, and an overall winner would be a good idea.

            • Its not your fault that its an idiotic idea clearly designed to destroy test cricket.

              No doubt when the last ever test match is played about 20 years from now, everyone will claim “there was no way we could have seen that coming”.

              BRB, I’m going to tell Leicester that they didn’t win the premier league after all, because they didn’t accumulate enough points at futsal.

              PS, I said “name me another team sport”, and you replied with “the heptathlon”. I’ll let you figure out your mistake there.

              • Tbf, you say the majority prefer short format which is wrong. They sell more tickets purely because generally it’s more accessible.. Doesn’t mean they are more interested in it.. Hell, from the younger guys I know.. They like it initially but literally within 3 years they are bored and don’t migrate to tests either as its inaccessible and even they say it’s like watching an odi.

                Awful idea, merely there to kill off test cricket and reduce it to a load of slog fests which they can flog around more grounds for cash.

                Cash is king.. Long love ECB and its hacks

  • Slightly off topic I know but I really had to say this.

    I was listening to an interview on TMS with Colin Graves.

    I think that this was almost certainly the first time in my increasingly long life that I have ever switched off a cricket interview because the person being interviewed was annoying me so much.

    There you are I have said it now and will go back to sleep.

  • I couldn’t really care about the points but I expect they’ll iron it out over time. The folk who work in cricket are too dim to work out a good system before applying it – remember what a shambles DRS was at the start, when England toured WI? The ump would give an LBW not out then it would be overturned because hawkeye showed it to be clipping leg stump, or whatever. A total mess, but they got there in the end.

    As for Graves’s interview, it just saddens me so much every time I hear these “I’m alright Jack” fellas spouting their nonsense geared purely towards not upsetting Sky (though I didn’t find him as infuriating as the Tom Harrison oil-slick last summer). The idea of FTA Test cricket dismissed out of hand in one sentence – “that’s not going to happen”. Of course people don’t watch TV in the way they used to, when there were no alternatives and a lot less to do in general, but they’d still watch live sport if they could because it’s…er…live…and therefore better than watching it on playback. I get the difficulties with scheduling, but why couldn’t Test Match cricket have its own channel these days, or use something like BBC4 which is off air until 7pm and, so far as I know, available in every household in the country with a telly? Is there a reason for this that I’m unaware of? These problems don’t feel insurmountable.

  • Just a point on the BBC4 Channel

    I am fairly sure that I am right in saying that during the day the wavelength (is that the right word?) is used by one of the Children’s BBC Channels. That ends at 7, and BBC4 takes over.

    And with the BBC looking to save money, this could disappear anyway.

  • Just looked up more about BBC4. It appears to be a “statistically multiplexed stream” that timeshares with CBeebies.

    What exactly that means I haven’t got a clue, but it does mean that they can’t use the Channel to show cricket during the day without dropping Bob the Builder or Balamory or whatever programmes are shown these days on CBeebies.

    • I’m not entirely sure on this, but I think have to jump on another band (borrow someone’s else) to extend.
      I did read they have asked to do this for the olympics. But it could be that they just nick BBC parliaments.

  • Thanks for the BBC4/CBeebies explanation, I didn’t know that. As a parent, the one thing I wouldn’t sacrifice for FTA cricket is CBeebies 🙂 That said, if there was any willing, I’m sure these problems could be overcome.

    • Of course they could if they wanted to.

      Most broadcasting organisations, including the BBC show something else on the Red Button. I think Sky are showing five different things at once in one channel sometime this weekend and of course the BBC did find loads of extra channels for the Olympics and do use the red button themselves.

      I would now be very happy to turn CBeebies into cricket. But certainly understand your point. If my elder son hadn’t got to watch The Tweenies there would have been serious trouble. But he’s 16 now.

  • The crowd for yesterday was 2000 fewer than the same opponents at the same venue 2 years ago.

    That’s a 17% drop in 20 years. That’s terrifyingly huge. We all know why: because cricket is deliberately being kept invisible to the vast majority of the country. We’ve talked about this ad infinitum and here is yet another example of the devastating effect it is having on our national summer game.

    But, you know what the most depressing thing is? Some people will try to spin this as the younger generation not being interested in test cricket and use it as justification for the marginalisation of the format. It goes without saying that this is ignorant, patronising, condescending drivel of the highest order, and the people who come out with this bullshit do not have cricket’s best interests at heart.

    • Main reasons

      A) fewer people are interested in the game enough to pay for the tv or tickets
      B) cost of tv and / or tickets is stupidly high
      C) fewer people have a knowledge of the game
      D) it costs so much to play in both time and money it’s no wonder kids just stick to football

    • Yorkshire have aggressively marketed this test and have priced it very attractively.
      But there’s one thing everyone knows. English weather in May is very dodgy. I wouldn’t buy a ticket in advance for a test match in May.

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