Dubai: The International Cricket Council (ICC) World Test Championship will commence from August 1 at Edgbaston. The first match will be part of the England-vs-Australia Ashes series at the venue, to be played from August 1-5.

Though the plan for the World Test Championship got approved way back in 2010, attempts to start it could not hit the ground until now. It was supposed to start in 2013 and again in 2017, but failed. This time, finally, it is all set to become a reality. The Test championship will be contested by nine top-ranked teams including Australia, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka and West Indies. The low-ranked nations — Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe — will not be part of the championship. Since each team is scheduled to play only six of the eight possible opponents, the ICC has been able to announce that India and Pakistan will not play against each other in the first and second editions of this championship. So in this championship, the nine top-ranked teams in the ICC Test rankings will play six series each — three at home and three away — against mutually chosen opponents over a two-year cycle.

India, who are now the top-ranked team in ICC rankings, start their campaign with a two-away series in the West Indies, starting on August 22, while New Zealand will play Sri Lanka from August 14. The ICC has made it clear that every Test match that is played over the next two years won’t be a part of this championship. The championship does not require teams to play a particular number of games in a series. The length of a series can be mutually agreed by the two nations that are involved. A total of 120 points will be up for grabs. For example, in a two-match series, a win will get you 60 points, but in a three-match series, a win can fetch only 40 points. The championship is expected to make bilateral Test cricket more engaging for the fans. The two sides with the most points at the end of the league will contest the final in England in June 2021.

Every effort is now being made to make Test cricket interesting in the light of T20 and One-day Internationals (ODIs) gaining more popularity. For the first time, Australia and England will line up with names and jersey numbers on their Test whites in the upcoming Ashes series — like in T20 and ODI matches. The traditionalists feel that numbers on whites in Test cricket are unnecessary, but it seems the change has a lot to do with merchandise sales, hoping that a name with a number will sell more.

So this Ashes series will witness many firsts in the 142 years of Test cricket history with first World Test Championship match and with the players wearing shirts with names and numbers on the back.