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Time ripe for a World Test Championship

india Updated: Aug 01, 2010 01:16 IST
Ian Chappell

To repeat one of my old Maths master's cornier sayings; "It's as clear as mud." In the case of the merry mathematician he was referring to my algebraic calculations while I'm talking about the ranking of the top cricket nations.

When Pakistan finally turned the tables and defeated Australia at the fourteenth attempt and Sri Lanka "Muralied" India in Galle, the already murky waters were muddied even further. There are now five teams, all of whom are flawed but at any moment can produce a performance that portrays them as potential World Test champions.

When it comes to competitiveness in cricket, it seems that flawed is preferable to flawless.

When South Africa engineered a magnificent away from home win over a gradually declining Australia, the Proteas appeared set to become the next force in world cricket. However, since then South Africa haven't shown the consistency required to be a dominant side.

India floated to the top of the rankings by default and even though they've remained at number one their form doesn't suggest a stranglehold on the position. While India still has strength in batting there has never been any indication that the bowling attack was one to be feared.

England has turned into a half-way decent side; that is, they have discovered the recipe for beating Australia at home but are yet to prove they can do it in a hostile environment.

The Australians, while still displaying remnants of the scrapper mentality and the will to win, have encountered problems facing the swinging ball.

And finally there's Sri Lanka, the mighty mouse of world cricket. At home they're likely to beat any team, whilst on bouncy pitches they're prone to providing opposition as meek as a mouse.

An extended period of fluctuating fortunes among the major cricket nations is a mouth-watering scenario. Competitive cricket is great to watch but it's preferable though, that the closeness of the scores is the result of two evenly matched teams.

In the lengthy period when one team dominated, the game survived mainly on a group of extremely marketable stars strutting their stuff. Their numbers are dwindling fast and the retirement of Muralitharan further reduces the bowling sector.

This is why team selection is crucial to the game's continued success. The constant regeneration of a cricket team is a tricky process that requires not only bold but also bright selections.

There are worrying signs that Pakistan is now the only country willing to select young players on a regular basis. Whatever the reason for the policy, other countries need to be more aware of the importance of giving youth a chance.

In the meantime, the administrators have a great marketing opportunity.

What better time to kick-off a World Test Championship than when there are at least four serious challengers for the title. What better way to clear those murky waters than a highly entertaining and competitive on-field battle for the world crown?