0International Cricket Council logoWhat’s wrong with the ICC test ranking system?

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
1South Africa128
6Sri Lanka92
7West Indies92
8New Zea­l­and83

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).

1South Africa
6Sri Lanka
7West Indies
8New Zea­l­and

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?

Are the test rank­ings right?

View Res­ults

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