Anyone that follows test cricket will know that all the sides are ranked, for example, at the time of writing South Africa are (rightly) ranked the best side in the world. I’ve long felt that the system used to rank teams needs revising, as it often seems to produce rankings that are clearly at odds with how well teams have been playing. Let me use the current rankings as an example.
As of 11th-April-2013
So, as I said, South Africa are rightly ranked world number 1, and England are ranked 2, what have I got to complain about?
India have just beaten Australia, and as a result, have overtaken them in the rankings. However, before that Australia were ranked #3. At that time Australia were playing South Africa in Australia. Now, just for the sake of argument lets just imagine that South Africa had been weakened by injury, or that they’d outplayed Australia in 2 tests which ended in draws due to weather (it didn’t happen like that, but it could have), and that Australia somehow managed to win just 1 test, maybe due to winning the toss in favourable conditions which then deteriorated. Australia would have won the series, without necessarily being the better side. These things can and do happen, it’s part of what makes test cricket what it is. So what’s the problem? The current ranking system would have returned Australia to the top spot! Now I can confidently assert that in my opinion Australia aren’t close to being world number 1, and their results (and subsequent drop in the rankings) since I started drafting this article would support me. But lets look at the evidence for the assertion before Australia lost the final test to South Africa, and were whitewashed by India.
Australia’s previous 6 series results were won 2 (against West Indies and India, both at home), drew 2 (New Zealand at home and South Africa away) and lost 2 (at home to England, and away to India). Only 2 of these results stand out — beating India comfortably (albeit India don’t travel at all well) and a very creditable 1–1 away draw in South Africa. However, they also got thrashed at home by England, and failed to beat New Zealand at home too. This kind of form doesn’t look like world #1 to me, but to emphasise the point, lets look at 2 other sides over the same period (I’ll exclude England to avoid any implication that I’m biased)
Pakistan: won4, drew 1 (beat Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, England and New Zealand, drew with South Africa)
South Africa: won 3, drew 3 (beat Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand, drew with India, Pakistan, Australia)
Surely, based on these results, both Pakistan and South Africa could rightfully claim to have played better than Australia in recent series? Pakistan could doubly claim so, as they have had the disadvantage of being unable to play series at home. Imagine where India would be in the rankings if they never got to play in India! (In their last 5 series away from home India have only won 1 series, overall winning 3 tests and losing 10, whereas in the last 5 years they’ve only lost 1 series at home)
So, whilst I haven’t yet worked out a new algorithm to offer to the ICC, I can at least offer you my own views of a more appropriate ranking table for the test teams as of 11-April-2013. I would also suggest that these rankings have been appropriate for almost a year, since South Africa beat England to leapfrog them to the top. I’d expect New Zealand to edge up if they continue their recent form. I also expect Australia to slide further following heavy defeats to England in the next year (fingers crossed).
For more reading, I recommend the Wikipedia article on the ICC Test Champtionship, which explains how the rankings are calculated.
So, that’s what I think, do you agree?
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