Six months into the inaugural ICC World Test Championship and the competition already looked like a two-horse race. While India won all their first seven games to stand atop with 360 points, Australia retained the Ashes and then dominated at home to stand second with 296. However, after Team India's recent 2-0 defeat in New Zealand, the World Test Championship has been thrown wide open with few other possibilities for the finale at Lord's in June 2021.
Let's take a look at the present World Test Championship table...
|Team||Series Played||Points won||Series left||Points available|
|India||4||360||2 - Australia (A), England (H)||240|
|Australia||3||296||3 - Bangladesh (A), India (H), South Africa (A)||360|
|New Zealand||3||180||3 - Bangladesh (A), West Indies (H), Pakistan (H)||360|
|England||2||146||4 - Sri Lanka (A), West Indies (H), Pakistan (H), India (A)||480|
|Pakistan||2*||140||3 - England (A), New Zealand (A), South Africa (H)||420|
|Sri Lanka||2||80||4 - England (H), Bangladesh (H), South Africa (A), West Indies (A)||480|
|South Africa||2||24||4 - West Indies (A), Sri Lanka (H), Pakistan (A), Australia (H)||480|
|West Indies||1||0||5 - England (A), South Africa (H), New Zealand (A), Bangladesh (A), Sri Lanka (H)||600|
|Bangladesh||1*||0||4 - Australia (H), Sri Lanka (A), New Zealand (H), West Indies (H)||540|
(*Pakistan and Bangladesh are presently part of a two-Test series with the former leading 1-0.)
India made a rampaging start to the World Test Championship as they won a series in West Indies before beating South Africa and Bangladesh at home. But back-to-back defeats in New Zealand denied them any further points to consolidate their position atop and leaving them a little too much to do to cover up the loss and maintain their spot in the points table.
India will now play a four-Test series in Australia where the hosts will be looking to avenge their 1-2 defeat in January 2019 allowing Virat Kohli to be the first Asian captain to win a Test series Down Under. That will be followed by a five-match series at home against Joe Root's England, leaving a total of 240 points on offer. England had last won a series in India in 2012, the latter's only Test series defeat at home in the last decade. However, India had won the previous series against England at home, in 2016/17, by a margin of 4-0.
What stands as a disadvantage for India is that with more matches in both the series, Kohli and men will have to put in better performances to gain more points off the series. As an advantage, India will have a clearer picture with the final series being at home, allowing them to take suitable decisions for the series.
The possibilities now arrive from the available points on offer. If India clean sweep both the series, they can end with 600 points and have no worry about results of the other teams.
However, if they lose their second consecutive away series in a similar fashion, Australia will gain an advantage. A subsequent clean sweep in the England series will leave them with just 480 points and Australia will have the opportunity to finish with a maximum 656 points.
For Australia, another team who have had a perfect record at home with wins against Pakistan and New Zealand after an away Ashes retention, they have three more series to play - in Bangladesh and South Africa and against India at home. While their recent records in the tournament will place them as favourites in the three contests, Australia has had results otherwise against these three nations. They were held 1-1 in Bangladesh, lost 1-3 in the infamous tour in South Africa last year and lost 1-2 to India. Australia will be looking to script a comeback against all three and consolidate their position atop. Moreover, the Aussies have the highest average points per series in the tournament with 98.7, ahead of India at second with 90.0
New Zealand, who stand third following their sensational win against India, now have two contests at home - against West Indies and Pakistan. New Zealand haven't lost a series at home since March 2017 and hence stand in all possibility of gaining those 240 points at home. However, ahead of those home contests, theyr will have a trip to Bangladesh for the first time since 2013 when they drew 0-0. If a similar results havppen along with a home domination, New Zealand can pull off 460 points and remain a contender for the finale at Lord's.
England have the most series left among the top four with two two away (Sri Lanka and India) and two at home (West Indies and Pakistan). While the home series can put forth a maximum 240 points up for grab for Root's men, a tour to the sub-continent will be the ones to decide their fate. They had lost 4-0 to India and won 3-0 in Sri Lanka in their last visit to the two countries.
Among the remainders in the table, only Pakistan, who will have the opportunity to make it 200 after beating Bangladesh in the second Test in April, stand with a possibility of a top-two finish.