The ICC ratings system to determine the best test team in the world is spread over too long a time, to provide a focused picture. This has been camouflaged by the clear dominance of Australia in the last few years, but there has to be a better way to crown a test playing nation as the best.
Below is a possible option, and there can be many more feasible ways to determine this. We welcome debate.
Like the ODI World Cup, one year in every four should be earmarked as Test Cricket World Cup year. With one difference - the championship lasts the whole year. The ten test-playing nations (including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe) are to play each other once. That means a total of 45 test matches spread throughout the year. The question is where to play. The captains and managers meet at the beginning of that year at the ICC headquarters.The 45 tosses happen there itself. The winner of each toss gets to pick either 1) the venue where the match will be played or 2) the right to decide whether to bat or field ON the first morning of the match.
This arrangement is designed to neutralise primarily the home advantage. It will also ensure that good result-oriented tracks are used in the matches itself.
(For example, between India vs Pakistan, India wins the toss, India may choose Chennai as the venue. Pakistan would then decide whether to bat or field first, on the morning of the match. Conversely, if India choose the right to bat or field first, Pakistan could choose Karachi as the venue.)
Every country gets to offer 1 to 3 venues for the matches. Dates can be fixed as per mutual convenience (or the ICC can stipulate).
Each test match is of the usual 5 days, with the usual 2 innings. The only departure is that 4 points are given in the event of an outright win. 1 point will be given for the first innings lead not exceeding 70 runs, 2 points if the first innings lead exceeds 70 runs. These points are designed to discourage flat, dreary tracks. And to prevent rain-marred test matches from having no significance. Also, these points will ONLY be given if there is no outright result.
So, these 45 test matches take place throughout the year, between other commitments that all the countries will have. Each team therefore plays 9 test matches in the championship format. A league tally is maintained with the points as explained above.
The top 2 teams emerging from the league (deadlocks can be broken with some other variable - like maybe runs scored in 9 matches divided by wickets lost) play the final.
The final consists of 1 test match each in the 2 respective countries (ie if India and Australia reach the final, one test is played in India and one in Australia). The toss in these games can take place in the morning as usual.
If the winner, according to the same points system, still does not emerge, then there will be a final deciding test at a neutral venue, or by using the venue or toss-win option as used in the group matches.
The winner of this system will doubtless be a deserving champion. It is also likely to produce high-quality, positive cricket, which often does not happen in a regular test series. (Maybe there is a case for regular test series' to incorporate this points system; rain-marred tests will therefore still have significance, and flat pitches will be avoided).
And the element of luck will also be minimal, as far as advantage from conditions is concerned.
There is also merit in the excitement being spread over the year because 1) Protracted excitement is the nature of test cricket anyway 2) The team that wins would have to be very consistent throughout the year 3) There will be fever pitch excitement as the climax approaches.
So, at the end, 8 teams would have played 9 test matches each (which in itself will improve standards, especially among the weaker teams), and 2 teams would have played 11 or 12 matches. Surely, that is not "too much cricket" if this year is treated specially, insofar as fewer tours being planned that year and fewer ODIs played.
One thing is for sure, this title will be considered much more worthwhile than the ODI World Cup.