Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Who Really Is Test Crickets Number 1?

They say figures are like a woman's skirt.... in that they cover more than they reveal...

Im a male so doesn't take much to think of skirts on women, but that was my thinking when England dismembered India in the 2nd test. To achieve a 2 nil series lead in the 4 Test series and with it be ordained the new number 1 in Tests.

The fact that this new number 1 ranking was achieved without England having prevailed against their two main rivals in South Africa and India on their home surrounds. Leaves the top billing as one lacking in credibility

More so a number 1 Team should not only be judged over time, but also how they shape up in the now and can be viewed in the short term future. In regards to whether they can improve or have reached their summit and are likely to diminish.

This being the scale of judgement the three Teams vying for the crown are India, England and South Africa. If you compare all three over a 5 year span, that encompasses 15 series these are the performaces of the three Teams

South Africa (15 series): won 9, drawn 5, 1 loss

India: (this series still ongoing): won 8, drawn 4, lost 2

England (this series still ongoing): won 9, drawn 1, lost 4

Looking at these figures as a measure of longevity, then South Africa should be number 1 because of their consistent excellence everywhere and the fact they only have felt defeat in a series once. Including having impressive records against both of it's contenders

Diverting away from the past, lets dissect all three in the now and how they are set up to perform in the future.

Ill do this by comparing three under three judgements

1. Team Balance

2. Age Factor

3. Team Depth

Team Balance: 

In my view England is an overwhelming winner in this category. I say this for they have an abundance of riches in all aspects of the game. In regards to a great opening partnership, exceptional number 3, brilliant middle order, great wicket keeper/batsmen and then a bowling line up with an eclectic bunch of quality fast bowlers and a very fine spinner. Then their line up is given greater balance by the excellence of wicket keeper Matt Prior with the bat. That would allow England to bat him at 6 and play 5 bowlers. In batting friendly conditions. Then also the depth of the batting with all of Broad, Bresnan and Swann being very adequate batsmen that allows this also

South Africa has issues in it's opening partnership in Test cricket and also the balance of it's attack without a quality spinner. Though they have high hopes for Imran Tahir in this regard. The excellent Mark Boucher's diminished performances behind the stumps also throws their balance out. Though in their favour is the great all rounder in their line up in Jacques Kallis. Then a lad by the name of Dale Steyn, that is the World's best bowler and plunders anywhere and everywhere. So the need for a spinner is justified, but lessened by the effect of the 'Steyn Remover'!

India struggles in this regard by the lack of quality in it's bowling and an unhealthy reliance on Zaheer Khan to lead their attack. As seen in this current England series, their Team is diminished greatly when Zaheer isn't in the line up. Curiously when talking about India with its proud heritage in class spinners. Is their lack of a good one at present. That unbalances their line up even further. The batting when everyone is available is one of the best in the games history and as such can be used to pad it's bowling. Though still comes up short against the better Team.

It has yet to be proven, but on paper out of the three England has a team built to prevail in any conditions.

2.Age Factor:

The English are a team that have most of their players in their peak or approaching their peak. Conceivably only Andrew Strauss at 34 might depart in the next few years.

South Africa are comparably to England in this regard with a young Team growing together with few players approaching retirement. One could point at Jacques Kallis at 36, as nearing the end of his career, but he has been dominating with the bat of recent in the test arena. So we think he will be around for a while yet. Then of more concern is the incumbent keeper/batsman Mark Boucher and his future with a lapse in form of late. Replacing a keeper of his quality is not easy.

The age factor is a huge factor for India with many icons in it's Team being in the latter stages of their career. All of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman are the wrong side of 35 and though they are still performing to his standards. It's not healthy having so many elder statesmen in the Team. Of more concern is Zaheer Khan and his ageing legs and how susceptible they will be to injury.

Team Depth;

The English as shown in this recent Test and the Ashes have an abundance of depth. Here Chris Tremlett, who had dominated with the ball all summer missed and was replaced by Tim Bresnan. Who not only replicated Tremlett's deeds with the ball, but also dominated with the bat. In terms of test class reserves here is my list.

Batsmen: James TaylorJames Hildreth
Fast Bowlers: Steven Finn, Chris Woakes, Graham Onion
Spinners:  Adil Rashid, Danny Briggs
Keepers: Johnny Bairstow

South Africa are blessed with a decent amount of depth too with some excellent young players coming through. Some names to look for are as follows

Batsmen Rilee Rossouw, Jonathon Vandiar
Fast Bowlers: Wayne Parnell. Cornelius De Villiers, Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Spinners: Imran Tahir
Keepers: Heino Kuhn

The Indian's have a great array of young batsmen. Though they fall down in the quality of their pace reserves and to a lesser extent their spin stocks

Batsmen: Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma
Fast Bowlers: Jaidev Unadkat
Keepers Parthiv Patel
Spinners: Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Ravi Ashwin


When you look at the Teams and how they are set up for the future. You think with the amount of players in the Indian Team who are near to the end of their career and the fact that these players are crucial members of the Team. That their departure will have a huge impact on seeing the Team diminish. Also the lack of bowling reserves supports this contention too.

As for England and South Africa, they are set up to be the two Teams at the summit of the game for a good long time


  1. I agree, I still believe south africa is the number 1 team in the world and my rankings say that.

  2. I think we are confusing between a World Champion team and the ICC rankings. You may (as I do) disagree with the ICC ranking system but we cannot dispute the rankings of given by ICC. In teh matter of ranking there is no room for judging whether one 'deserves' the rank or not. If you win you get points and if you lose, you shed points too.

    World Champion is, in my definition at least, one who has beaten all and everywhere. It is like holding the four grand slams at a given time in tennis.

    Right no team satisfies that condition (drawn series dont count) and so the title has no claimant at present.

    Each of us depending upon our loyalty can argue who is 'better' among teh top three or four but that is an entirely different exercise in itself.

    I am reminded of a funny but real story I came across some 6-7 years ago. An Australian lady was awarded the second prize in a recipe contest organised by a radio station. The lady was furious and refused to accept it. You know why?
    Hers was the only entry and teh judges thought it did not deserve the top prize!

    I guess SA, England and India are all like that oz lady! :)

  3. sri lanka won 0 lost 1 drow 2 test rank 4
    india won 0 lost 2 drow 0 test rank 1
    this is excessive of cricket....

  4. thank you for your comments Sampath, and agreed SL did fabulously well in England

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  7. Fine article, Mr. Tim. I agree with all the facts you have highlighted up there. You have analysed it very well. Very well written.