Questions to paceman Mitchell Starc from the English press were about what the Australian bowling performance at The Oval says about next week’s Edgbaston Test
Australia’s Pat Cummins (right) and Steve Smith during the WTC final at The Oval on Saturday. Pic/Bipin Patel
One of the most curious aspects of this ICC World Test Championship final is that the country which is staging it is really more concerned with the five Tests that will follow.
Hardly surprising, as for the home country, it is The Ashes series against Australia, the most important cricket series against the country which most people in this country consider kith and kin. Almost everything Australia have done in this Test has been judged against how they may play when the Ashes start. On Friday night, when Mitchell Starc came to the press conference, all questions from the English press were about what the Australian bowling performance at The Oval says about the Edgbaston Test next week, which will start the Test series.
Ashes mean more
That is not surprising as The Ashes mean more to the English than almost any other sporting contest. However, it raises the question of the ICC having this championship and what it means for Test cricket.
The championship was conceived with the best of intentions, that Test cricket, which did not have a final conclusive point, needed one. Yet, in all other sports such conclusive points, like the World Cup or the World Championship, are really conclusive points. That is when in that sport everything stops to concentrate on this conclusive event.
Here, as with the first Test Championship played two years ago, also in this country, between India and New Zealand, it did not. It felt like an interesting match which would tell us nothing about anything.
Then now, much was said about how all this is necessary to make sure that Test cricket, in an age where limited over cricket in various forms is threatening to overwhelm, is relevant.No subject in cricket provokes more cliches than Test cricket. Everyone agrees that Test cricket is the most important form of the game and must be nourished and preserved. Yet, these championships show how hollow those words are. The winner of this World Test Championship will get $16m, which is what Ben Stokes earned at the IPL and he hardly did anything. In fact, this championship are not even the icing on the cake. They feel like the sort of little biscuit on the side of a plate where the great cake is the IPL.
Should this Test produce a truly great finish on Sunday and in particular with an Indian victory, the biscuit will taste very sweet indeed but even if it does, it will not solve the central question of how you have a World Test Championship final which feels like a true final. This one, staged in a country whose gaze is on some other competition, certainly does not feel like one.
I am writing this as the world of football has paused to see whether Manchester City will emulate Manchester United and do the treble. And that is a club competition. The world of cricket is not holding its breath for this match. The ICC needs to ask why and what it can do make this a really special moment in cricket. At the moment, it is not.
Mihir Bose is an Indian-born writer and author based in the United Kingdom
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