While the format will have its fair share of critics, the World Test Championship has been triumphant in providing an auxiliary perspective to any, and every Test series across the globe. It is for this nascent perspective that when India suffered a nine-wicket defeat against Australia in the third Border Gavaskar Trophy 2023 Test, pens and papers were out and elementary mathematics was revisited.
From the context of the series, India still hold the upper hand as they had secured an unassailable 2-0 lead with victories in Kanpur and Delhi. The defeat in Indore could, more than anything else, hence have had only a transitory subduing effort on the euphoria.
Yet, herein lies a broader perspective, which sparked three variations of emotions in three different camps – celebratory glee for Australia, consternation for India and unanticipated optimism for Sri Lanka.
It will only be warranted to have a case-by-case analysis of the reactions.
Firstly, courtesy of this victory here at the Holkar Cricket Stadium, Australia have officially qualified for the ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 final, which will be held at The Oval from 7-11 June. With 11 victories in 18 matches, the baggy greens have secured a ‘points won out of points contested’ (PCT) figure of 68.52% – a figure which cannot be toppled by any of the other participants in the competition.
Two-Horse Race on the Cards
What we now have on the plate is a two-horse race to be the other finalist, contested between neighbours India and Sri Lanka. Rohit Sharma’s team has won 10 of their 19 matches in the current WTC cycle, courtesy of which they are only the second side to have a PCT in excess of 60% (60.29%).
Sri Lanka, however, are the only remaining team barring the above-mentioned pair to have remained in the hunt thus far. Their chances of qualifying for the final remain slim, but not zilch, and the road to London will be arduous, but not untraversable. Their current PCT is 53.33%, courtesy of five wins in ten matches, and they still have a two-match series to play against New Zealand, starting on 9 March.
Let us have a look at all the possible qualification scenarios for the WTC 2021-23 final:
Scenario 1: India Win 4th BGT 2023 Test
The permutations and combinations will not be required, and the calculators will be redundant, should India win the last match of the series against Australia, which will be played in Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium from 9 March.
A victory in this match will help India finish second on the World Test Championship standings, courtesy of 135 points from 18 matches, with their PCT being 63%. Even if Sri Lanka manage to do a clean sweep against the Kiwis away from home, their PCT will not exceed 61%, subsequently resulting in elimination.
Scenario 2: India Lose/Draw 4th Test, SL Win All 2 Matches
The Lankans will, however, find themselves in the hunt only if Australia provide them with another reprieve, in the form of a draw or a victory in the fourth Test.
Should India draw the fourth Test, which might seem unlikely given how red-ball matches in the nation are gradually becoming a three-day event, India will end their league stage campaign with 127 points and a PCT of 59%.
In that case, a couple of victories will help Sri Lanka qualify for the final of the competition, and battle for the silverware against Australia. Two wins will see the Lankans ending their league campaign with 88 points from 12 matches, that is, a PCT of 61%.
Scenario 3: India Lose/Draw 4th Test, SL Win Only One Match
Whilst an Indian victory will mean automatic elimination for Sri Lanka, Dimuth Karunaratne’s team will need nothing less than a 2-0 triumph against New Zealand, even if the last edition’s runners-up lose the match in Ahmedabad.
A defeat in the fourth Test will see India ending their journey with a 57% PCT, with 123 points. Even if Sri Lanka manage to win the two-match series against the Blackcaps 1-0, that is, with one win and a draw, they will remain in third place with a 56% PCT and 80 points.
Hence, irrespective of whether the fourth Test ends in a draw or a defeat for the Indians, Sri Lanka’s to-do list remains simple, albeit exceptionally challenging – to record a whitewash against New Zealand, in New Zealand.