(ICC) The West Indies and New Zealand will kick off a season of high-octane Test cricket when they go head-to-head in a three-Test series that starts in Kingston, Jamaica, tomorrow.
While the series in the Caribbean is underway, a two-Test series between England and Sri Lanka will be played at Lord’s (12-16 June) and Headingley (20-24 June).
These two series will not only serve as curtain-raisers to what is expected to be a season of mouth-watering Test cricket, it will also start the race to the number-one position on the Reliance ICC Test Team Rankings table. The side that tops the table on the 1 April 2015 cut-off date will be presented with the prestigious Test mace as well as a cash award of US$500,000.
Australia currently holds the mace and the number-one Test position with South Africa in second place, just a fraction of a point behind. Then 14 ratings points separate third-ranked England from seventh-ranked Sri Lanka, with the West Indies another 14 ratings points behind in eighth spot.
Apart from the two series in June, ten more series are scheduled to be played until the end of January 2015, after which the focus will shift to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, which starts in Christchurch and Melbourne on 14 February.
This means that well before the ICC Cricket World Cup starts in Australia and New Zealand, the teams’ positions on the Reliance ICC Test Team Rankings Table at the 1 April 2015 cut-off date will be finalised, as no Test cricket expected to be played after the ICC Cricket World Cup final on 29 March.
As per the January 2012 ICC Board decision, a total of US$1.34 million will be distributed amongst the top four Test sides in 2015, with the number-one ranked side receiving US$ 500,000, followed by US$ 390,000 for the second ranked side, US$ 280,000 for the third ranked side and US$ 170,000 for the side that finishes fourth.
Host West Indies will have an opportunity to swap places with New Zealand when their series starts in Kingston, Jamaica. West Indies is currently ranked eighth in the Reliance ICC Test Team Rankings with 76 ratings points, and trails sixth-placed New Zealand by 16 ratings points.
However, to achieve that swap, the West Indies will have to win all three Tests against New Zealand and rely on England to make it 2-0 against Sri Lanka.
The final positions for New Zealand will also be dependent on the outcome of the England-Sri Lanka series. While a series win will mean Sri Lanka will move up a place to sixth, England can drop to as low as fifth if it loses both Tests against Angelo Mathews’ side. A series win for England will have no effect on its ranking.