Former Sri Lankan cricketer Mahela Jayawardene has backed the concept of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Test Championship, saying that it will attract a lot of interest and will keep the longest format of the game "healthy".
On Monday, the ICC officially launched the inaugural edition of the WTC, which will get underway with the five-match Ashes series between England and Australia from August 1, 2019.
The WTC will see the top nine Test teams in the world – Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies – compete in 71 Test matches across 27 series, played over two years. The top teams, in the end, will contest the ICC World Test Championship Final in June 2021 in the United Kingdom and the winners will be crowned as ICC World Test Champions.
Lauding the new initiative, Jayawardene said that the WTC would provide competitive structure in the five-day game and keep fans gripped over a number of years.
"Cricket needs the ICC World Test Championship. Context is essential, to play for points as well as pride.We have a World Championship in other formats and I think it's important to bring that over into Test cricket. Otherwise, it just becomes bilateral series after bilateral series," the ICC press release quoted the Sri Lankan great as saying.
"Once you bring in that concept, there will be enough competitive structure in the five-day game to make fans excited and keep them gripped over a number of years. They will be looking forward to seeing their teams play when there is lots at stake. We will see where the teams rank over a period of time and who the best teams are, home and away," he added.
Describing the concept as 'unique', Jayawardene further said, "I'm pretty confident that it will attract a lot of interest. It's important to keep the Test game healthy. We cannot be afraid of evolution to do that."
"The Test game produces good quality cricketers. It tests them in the right way and over a Championship season, players will have to prove their worth in a variety of situations and in every different set of conditions," he continued.
The cricket's oldest rivalry will be followed by the two-match Test series between Sri Lanka and World Cup 2019 runner-ups New Zealand from August 14. Subsequently, India will open their campaign at the World Test Championship with a two-match Test series against West Indies at the latter's home turf starting from August 22.
Commenting on the upcoming series between Sri Lanka and New Zealand, Jayawardene said that the national side has looked good in Test cricket at home, but it won't be easy to beat World Cup 2019 runner-ups New Zealand.
"Sri Lanka has looked a good side in Test cricket, at least at home. Their challenge would be to try and win away from home - that's the tough thing for every side. New Zealand have just been in a World Cup final and cricket will be on a high in the country at the moment. A tour of New Zealand is always a tough challenge. They have a settled team in Test cricket and their bowling unit in particular looks very strong," he said.
"It's a great test for Sri Lanka, to go out and challenge themselves to perform. It's not going to be easy to beat New Zealand away from home, but every point is vital for Sri Lanka going forward in the World Test Championship," Jayawardene added.
With points available for every single game, each team will play three home and three away series. Each series counts for 120 points, distributed over the number of matches in a series. For example, a two-match series will mean 60 points for each Test while a three-match series will give 40 points to each Test match. A tie will be 50% of the points available, whilst a draw will be a 3:1 points ratio.