With the International Cricket Council having announced the introduction of the test championship to culminate in a play-off tournament next year among the top four teams, rankings have become of utmost importance.
By Dinouk Colombage
India, South Africa, England, Sri Lanka and Australia are all vying for the top four spots, which has meant the result of every test match has become vital. No longer will a captain be satisfied with a draw knowing a victory can mean the difference between fourth or fifth in the rankings.
With the increased importance placed on rankings, it is an opportunity to look at whether or not they are an accurate depiction of a test team’s standing in world cricket. A team rating is determined by its total points scored divided by the total matches and series played. A team is awarded one point for a win, half a point for a draw, a bonus point for a series win and both teams are awarded half a bonus point for a series draw. India is currently in top spot with South Africa second, England third, Sri Lanka fourth and Australia fifth.
The system looks clear cut, wins are awarded accordingly and it is ensured that a team playing more matches does not encounter any advantage. Is this however an accurate depiction of the actual standing? Despite India having achieved the number one ranking they have been severely outplayed by England and are now looking at losing the number one spot. Having lost the two opening matches of the four test series, it looks unlikely that India will bounce back to draw the series. For England a series win by a margin of two or more matches will be enough to secure the top spot.
Is India deserving of the tag of the number one team? India has experienced a fairly successful last two years with consistent performances and series wins over the top teams. Unfortunately these series wins have not come outside of the sub-continent; while many of their victories have been against the same opponent (Sri Lanka). India’s recent tour of the West Indies ended in a 1-0 win for the visitors. However, playing against a consistently under-performing West Indies team should have seen a better performance by the number one team. Their batting was reliant on Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, while their bowling often looked flat and ineffective.
Coming across to England they have been shown up by a team that can be considered genuine contenders for the number one spot. The loss of Zaheer Khan has left their bowling attack looking toothless. While all their batsmen, barring Dravid, have failed to exert any authority in the series. On the other hand England has shown that they have more than one player who will carry them over the line. Their recent Ashes success can be put down to the performances of Alastair Cook and Jonathon Trott with the bat while James Anderson led the attack with the ball. This series has seen Matt Prior and Ian Bell come forth with the bat while Stuart Broad has certainly performed with the ball. Furthermore the rest of the team have contributed to every win. The same cannot be said about India.
Indian media has blamed their failures on the lean series Tendulkar is having and the absence of Zaheer Khan. No mention has been made of the other nine players in the team, without Khan their bowling attack never looks like picking up a wicket. While their batsmen boast a line up of young talent, all of whom will be forced to shoulder the burden when Tendulkar finally retires.
Australia has dropped from the top position down to fifth and is facing an uphill task. However, this ranking is a more accurate portrayal of the team. They have played at and away from home and have failed to string together any strong performances. They have also played a host of teams, something both India and Sri Lanka cannot boast of having done. This is not the fault of the countries, but rather the International Cricket Council (ICC). Haroon Lorgat introduced the test championship with the aim of ensuring more competitive cricket. It has been widely welcomed; however, they need to ensure that certain teams do not qualify through any sort of advantage.