'We want every match in the World Test Championship to count'

"In the past eight months, Test cricket has been very interesting: there has been some upsets, some away wins, so the timing of the World Test Championship couldn't be better" IDI/Getty Images

The World Test Championships (WTC) begins on August 1, two weeks after the World Cup ended. Geoff Allardice, the ICC's general manager, cricket, looks back at the World Cup final, one of the greatest matches in the game's history, and the WTC, which has been designed to help grow Test cricket and build newer audiences.

Overall how do you rate the World Cup?
From a cricket point of view we were very happy. The teams were evenly matched and there was a chance that either team could win any game. When you are playing 48 matches that's good situation to be in. The quality of the cricket, and the drama of the final, ensured it was an exceptional tournament.

Record totals were predicted at the outset, but the scores were mostly modest. Did the ICC give the groundsmen any instructions about the pitches?
No special instructions were issued. Our usual instruction at an ICC event is to prepare the best pitch you normally do at that particular venue for the format of the game that is being played. We don't get involved in the preparation of the pitches.

We had first innings ranging from 105 to 397. What the pitches did do was test the skills and tactics of all of the teams, so that they needed to adjust to the conditions that were presented.

The ICC received flak for not having rain covers that could cover the grounds fully. Did you factor in full ground covers at any point in the preparation period?
Generally if you have a venue with good drainage then the need for full ground covers is not as great as it might be in some other parts of the world, where either the volume of rain or the drainage characteristics of the outfield don't allow the water to disperse as quickly. The drainage at the venues that were used in England and Wales was pretty good, and they managed weather interruptions and protecting the ground in the way they normally do when hosting international cricket. On most occasions we were able to get play moving fairly quickly after the rain stopped during this World Cup.

There isn't one solution that will work for every venue that can be applied uniformly across the world. That's why we rely on the local venues and local boards to deliver our events using the methods they usually employ to cover the ground.

The overthrow rule, which came into play in the World Cup final, was much discussed. Could the ICC match officials, including the match referee, have done anything different from what they did in the final?
The on-field umpires had to make a judgement call on the day as to whether the batsmen had crossed when the throw was released. After everything that went on during that delivery, they got together over their comms system and made their decision. They certainly followed the right process when making the decision.

What is the regulated time under the playing conditions allotted to umpires to make up their minds in such instances?
No, there is no time limit. They were aware of the law when they made the judgement about whether the batsmen had crossed or not at the time, and the playing conditions don't allow them to refer such a decision to a third umpire. The match referee cannot intervene either.

Do you reckon the overthrow rule needs to be reviewed?
The ICC playing conditions mirror the MCC Laws of Cricket on this issue, and I am not aware if the MCC is thinking of reviewing the law that relates to overthrows as a result of what happened in the World Cup final.

What about the tiebreaker rule? Kane Williamson said it was a shame New Zealand had to go home as runners-up. Eoin Morgan said it was unfair. Has the ICC asked the cricket committee to review the rule?
The cricket committee will consider any issues arising from the World Cup final when it next meets [in the first quarter of 2020]. A Super Over has been used to determine a winner in a tied match in ICC events since 2009 [replacing the bowl-out], and the tiebreaker after a tied Super Over needed to be derived from something that happened in that particular match. So it has always related to the number of boundaries scored in the match. Almost all the T20 leagues around the world also use boundaries as the tiebreaker in their Super Overs. We wanted to use the same Super Over regulations that are used across all professional cricket and that's why it was the way it was. Whether it should be different is something that our cricket committee will consider at some point.

Did the ICC's chief executives committee (CEC) deliberate at the ICC annual conference recently on whether sharing the World Cup could be an option in future?
No, that wasn't discussed. The consistent view has been that the World Cup final needs a winner, and a Super Over was in the playing conditions to decide a tied final in each of the last three World Cups.

Kumar Dharmasena, one of the umpires who stood in the final, faced criticism for his decisions, not just in the final but also in earlier matches. Can you explain how umpires are picked for a key match like a final, considering Aleem Dar, a more senior official, was the third umpire?
We have a selection panel which reviews the performances of the umpires and ranks the Elite Panel of 12. Umpires within the Elite Panel will have good days and bad days, so one bad day doesn't all of a sudden turn a very good umpire into a poor umpire. We do look at the performance of the Elite Panel over an extended period of time.

When it comes to the final of a major event like a World Cup, we tend to pick the higher-ranked umpires. We also have to keep in mind the requirement for neutral umpires. At the moment we have four English umpires in the Elite Panel, so they could not have stood in the final when England was involved. As for Kumar Dharmasena, he had an exceptional year and that was reflected in him being voted as the Umpire of the Year for 2018. Over a period of time he has been one of our best decision-makers. He has stood in major matches before and he has been high in our rankings and that's why he was appointed to the final.

Is there scope and support for additional DRS reviews in ODIs?
Cricket is different to many other sports in that the opportunity to review an umpire's decision is a scarce resource which needs to be used judiciously by the teams. Initially the DRS was introduced to correct the obvious error, but in recent times we see more speculative reviews, often unsuccessful, leaving teams without a review when they need one. This happened a number of times during the World Cup.

We would need to weigh up the benefit of correcting the small number of incorrect decisions made when a team has no reviews left against the delays to the game caused by the additional reviews, some of which will only be requested because the team has reviews left over, not because the players think the original decision was incorrect.

The World Test Championship takes off in a week's time with the first Test of the Ashes. Virat Kohli has said that he has been looking forward to the WTC because it provides context to a contest. The players' support must help?
Yes, it is very encouraging to hear those comments. I know players love playing Test cricket. For the first time there is a real context to the matches they play that extends beyond a particular series. I know the Test rankings have done a good job over a long period of time in the sense of identifying the best team, but to be able to compete on a points table and play for a spot in the final will add a new element to Test cricket and will make it more interesting to people from the countries not involved in that particular match.

Also, for the first time, Test shirts will have numbers and names. How did that idea come about?
One of the discussions at the CEC in the last year was how we could differentiate WTC from bilateral Test series, and we could make it more engaging for newer fans. Hopefully anyone who watched the World Cup in the last two months will have an interest in cricket that extends to the longest form of the game. The way we were brought up watching the game: to know who a Test player is by his height, his build, how he walked, his batting stance - sometimes it is not easy for someone who is not well versed with cricket to work out who is who on the field, and the addition of names, and particularly numbers, will help.

We also walk around cricket grounds and we see children wearing team shirts with their favourite player's number on the back. That happens not just in cricket but in most sports. One thing we don't see as often is children walking around imitating Test players, so wouldn't it be great if we started seeing children wearing white shirts with their favourite Test player's number on the back?

A total of 120 points per series is at stake. But series will continue to be of different numbers of matches. Can you explain how the number of matches per series was determined?
When the competition was being put together by the member countries there were some existing series in the previous Future Tours Programme [FTP] which we made every effort to accommodate within the structure of the WTC. We also wanted to make sure that each country played a mix of higher-ranked and lower-ranked opponents.

The view of member countries was that they wanted the competition cycle to last no longer than two years. When we went through the scheduling exercise to see how different combinations of the Test championship fit into the FTP, we found that six series over two years was the number that could be accommodated by all teams.

Once the opponents had been determined and agreed by all the countries, then the two competing countries in a series, as part of their FTP negotiations, decided how many Test matches they would contest as part of that series, with the competition rules dictating a minimum of two matches and a maximum of five.

With regards to the points system, one general rule of any competition is that teams need to compete for the same number of points in total. With each team playing three series each at home and away, we decided on a consistent number of points for each series. The options were: you either just divide those points by the number of Tests being played in that series, so that every match counts, or you only count the first two Tests of a five-Test series, as an example. The overwhelming view of the member countries was they wanted every match to count.

How will the ICC ensure that teams do not unduly exploit home conditions and influence the nature of pitches in the WTC?
The sanctions for venues that produce conditions that are either poor or unfit for international cricket are quite serious.

Also, in the WTC playing conditions, if at any time a pitch that is unfit for Test cricket is produced and does not allow the game to proceed, then the points for a win will be awarded to the visiting team. A poor pitch, which is like a final warning, incurs the venue three demerit points. An unfit pitch incurs five demerit points. If a venue gets five demerit points over a five-year period, it loses its international status.

So the onus is on the home board to prepare quality pitches for the Test matches played as part of the WTC.

Slow over rates have been an issue in cricket for a long time. As a deterrent, the ICC's cricket committee has now recommended that two points be deducted for every over a team fails to bowl. Can you explain the rule?
At the end of a Test match the umpires will perform an over-rate calculation across both innings. In the past captains were fined for slow over rates, which will continue in the WTC, too. But in the WTC not just the captain but all players in the team will also be fined at the same level. In addition, in the WTC, two points will also be deducted from the competition points won by that particular team for every over they are short of.

What we are trying to do is to make sure every member of the team and their coaching staff is focused on making sure of meeting the minimum-over-rate requirement in all matches.

The regulations we have in place in Test cricket seem to be working, because over the past few years we have only had three different Test teams fined for slow over rates. We are trying to make sure to improve the pace of play. Hopefully the idea that you will be giving away hard earned championship points if you don't bowl your overs at an appropriate rate will incentivise teams to pick up their pace of play.

What happens with slow over rates in bilateral Tests series outside of the WTC?
The fines system will continue for those Test matches. The cricket committee believed that suspending the captain wasn't always a proportionate penalty, as there were two instances last year when captains were suspended after their team had won a game within three days, and the committee felt that suspending the captain was unjust, considering those teams had performed well and taken 20 wickets in a relatively short period of time.

The other consideration was that suspending the captains from playing in international cricket, including the WTC, would be depriving the matches of some of the best players. We are trying to find different ways to deal with slow over rates in international matches. The points deduction in the WTC is the first of those measures.

There has been a proposal to use a stop clock to ensure time is not wasted on field. How does that work?
One of the things that we discussed at this cricket committee meeting was having a countdown clock visible during each innings of limited-overs matches. In a T20 innings, the clock would start at 85 minutes, when the first ball is bowled, and count down to zero. The aim is that players, umpires and fans should know that when the clock gets to zero, the bowling team should have started the last over.

If there is a delay or interruption in the match due to an injury or a DRS review then the umpire will add time back onto the clock. Today, if there is a DRS review, the third umpire will make a note of the review taking, say, one minute and that will be added as an allowance in the manual over-rate calculation at the end of the match, but with a countdown clock, the third umpire will put that minute back on the clock immediately.

Over the next nine months we will be looking to trial the clock in selected venues just to give the third umpires some experience as to how it might work, and to assess how effective it is and how easy it is implement before we consider any in-match over-rate sanctions in limited-overs cricket.

The first new playing condition that will come in to play from August 1 is concussion substitutes. Are there any concerns over potential misuse of the rule?
To begin with, most players are going to be reluctant to come off the field in a Test match. When a request is received for a concussion replacement, there will be some judgement required on the part of the match referee to ensure that the nominated replacement player is a like-for-like player as far as possible. But the overriding principle would be that a team shouldn't receive an excessive advantage by being allowed to replace a concussed player. It should be to allow the game to continue with the same number of players performing the same type of role. There should be a little bit of flexibility shown because touring teams will only have a finite number of potential replacements available within the squad.