The Test rankings are pretty accurate, but…

Posted by
2 minute read

A lot of people quibble with the ICC’s Test rankings, but we think they’re pretty good. The rankings are more weighty than simply saying which is the best team at any given moment. They reward sustained excellence.

You can say that they should recognise which is the best team right now, but how do you do that? You’ve got to impose some sort of timeframe on what you’re measuring because you need data. For example, a team doesn’t become the best in the world the very moment it takes a wicket or scores a run, which is what would happen if you evaluated too short a timeframe.

Similarly, a team doesn’t become the best in the world when it wins a Test match, or a series. It doesn’t even become the best team in the world by winning three or four series in a row. At present, these are all just steps towards that number one ranking and we think that method of calculation actually gives the rankings a fair bit of cachet.

When number one isn’t the best

It’s counter-intuitive, but it may be that the number one ranked side isn’t the best at a particular moment. This is because it would be unreasonable to expect superiority every second of every match. There’s a fluidity to being the best and the rankings merely reflect which team tends to perform better more often.

There are also different margins when it comes to being number one. When India became number one, many people evaluated their case with reference to the recent, great Australian side. That was unfair and inaccurate. India had been performing better than everyone else for a decent period of time. They justified their ranking. Australia, on the other hand, had been so superior for so long that they were top by a distance. They were different kinds of number one.

Room for improvement

Being the number one Test side isn’t like winning the World Cup. There’s no end point, it’s just a constantly shifting evaluation. There are always more challenges. Maintaining your position is one challenge. Winning a difficult away series you’ve previously drawn or lost is another.

Test cricket is all about competing against different teams in different conditions. You can lose to a team away and still be considered better than them, because you might thrash them in your home conditions.

No team has ever done a grand slam of home and away against every other Test nation. It’s virtually impossible. That’s a good thing. For every side, there is always room for improvement; there are always more targets. Test cricket is simply far too beautifully complex for anyone to ‘win’ at it.

That’s why we watch. That’s what we talk about. That’s the whole point.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. You’re going all serious again like you did during the Ashes. Where are the irreverent match reports and pictures of cats?
    The first rule of journalism is give the people what they want.
    The people want cats.

    1. We’re pretty sure the passion will ebb away rapidly once we get to the 426 successive short-form fixtures between these two sides.

  2. They’re calling you a journalist now, KC. Is that right? Is that the whole point?

  3. I see what you did. You made a new article that contained just your points of view cos you knew that no-one could be arsed re-typing all of their comments in this new one, and the other one doesn’t mention test rankings in the title, so people in the future (*) who google “test rankings – are they shite?” won’t find all of the brilliant comments that say they are, and they’ll only have your opinion to go on, and also they won’t find out about your embarrassing incident with the ladies fingers.

    (*) By “people in the future” I don’t mean space men living on Mars with hover cars and swishy doors and colour TVs and aliens for pets. I mean people living under the oppressive dictatorship of King Cricket Land, where all dissenting comment is ruthlessly slightly hidden.

    1. We did conclude that they were shite in the grand scheme of things. Be fair.

      And shut up about the damn okra. We’ll never live that down at this rate.

    2. I didn’t really pick up that you thought they were shite in the conclusion. Just something about beauty.
      I think the test team and personal ranking are pretty good. And I (at the risk of sounding gauche) am actually fairly interested in what they have to say. Sure they are flawed and not a completely accurate measure of how well the team/cricketer performed, but neither is the scorecard or result of a particular match and not even the most avid I-don’t-care-about-stats-it-is all-about-the-game chap would choose to ignore that.

  4. I am not a stat-minded man. I don’t keep count of how many home/away series a team has won. It generally satisfies me to watch a test match where two teams turn up and compete with all they got. The greatest disappointment in this series (so far) is the fact that the #1 ranked team hasn’t even looked like competing for more than one session. This lends credence to Bert’s comments in the previous thread that the tag #1 is quite meaningless. The fact that Zaheer is injured is no reason why Laxman and Tendulkar should suffer continuously against Broad and Anderson. If you’re the captain of the #1 ranked team and when your team is in trouble, you should know better than to swat at wide deliveries standing glued to the crease. Apart from Rahul, no one has adapted to the conditions, clearly. Even if they manage to achieve 2-1 scoreline, it borders on foolishness to dub this group of individuals #1. Harsh, I know, but true.

    Full marks to Praveen Kumar, though.

    1. For an Indian fan, I know how ridiculously inconsistent the team is. And they played like shit for the first two matches.

      Ok I lost my train of thought. But two acts do not make a play. There is a very good chance India will lose more test matches in the series. But there is also a decent chance they will win one (may be even two *gasp*). I say this because India has been the number one team for this long not because they have not played England or South Africa, but mostly because (1) They had Sehwag (2) They are pretty darn stubborn when pushed into a corner.

      Arguably the first match should have kicked off a spark. It almost did. The inexperienced bowlers did not have what it takes to follow through their initial success. Dhoni has been idiotic in persisting with Harbhajan. These are all excuses, I understand.

      Bottom line, the team that turns up at the third test will not be the same team devastated in the first two tests. And I am willing to bet good money on it.

  5. I think South Africans have the best test side in the world at the moment. Best fast bowlers, best set of batsmen and now with a leg spinner in their ranks, they have everything covered.

    1. Indeed they have, and now they can’t get ranking points for that because they don’t play for 7 months. What was that about a crowded schedule?

    2. And they were not able to win a test series at home against India. They lost a test series at home to England. And nothing changed in the squads since those two series.

    3. I believe the leg spinner you highlighted in your comment was actually not playing those series you mentioned.

  6. They actually drew with us at home.

    They have the best fast bowler in steyn definitely and Tahir will give them a spin bowling threat. But Morkel is inconsistent and who is south africa’s third choice quick anyway?
    As for the batting Kallis, Amla and AB are class acts but the rest are about as reliable as morgan and strauss at the moment.
    Each of the teams have their strengths at the moment England’s is the depth in their seam bowling and their middle to lower order. Saffers have the one truly great fast bowler and a class middle order. India the most destructive top order (when fit) and total mastery of home conditions.

  7. Agree with a lot of what narkins says. I think SA will give England a run for our money, no doubt about it.

    Conditions will suit Steyn and Morkel so no major advantage from fast bowling like we currently have over India.

    Expect India to come back in 3rd test, believe Sachin is due a score. But one thing that does surprise me is just how bad the bowling is without Zaheer.

    Knew he was the mainstay of the Indian attack, but didn’t realise just how bad it is without him. A top ranked sides bowling shouldn’t fall apart like that because of one injury.

    1. I agree for the most part, Dean, but claiming the bowling is downright trash is a little harsh, in my opinion. The Indian batting is more to be blamed. The bowlers did do well, but unfortunately, due to a mixture of inexperience and mental/physical fitness, were unable to keep the pressure up. It is (sort of) understandable, as in the absence of Zaheer, suddenly Praveen and Ishant had to lead the attack, instead of following on Khan’s usual good work. Given this, they did well with the new ball – the problem was the attack fizzled out after a while. This is not an excuse, but I can at least understand what’s going on there.

      It is when these so-called batting giants regularly fail that I am left wondering if they are indeed only flat track bullies.

    2. In the first innings we bowled England out for 220-something. I’d say that was a fairly good effort. Had our batsmen showed a little more application, it would’ve been us rather than England that took advantage of the flat 3rd day pitch.

    3. @ Deep Cover, I agree the Indian bowlers have done well in spells during both tests. It was the way it fell apart in the 2nd innings at Trent Bridge that alarmed me and would worry me if it was my team.

      I agree with the inexperience and fitness points, I suppose my main point is that the No.1 team should be able to cope a bit better without it’s main bowler.

      @ElishaCook I’d say given the conditions they bowled in on Day2, England got about 70-80 runs more than they should have. I wouldn’t say it was anything special myself.

      I agree with your point that India should have been batting on Day 3 and cashing in on the best batting conditions of the test, had the batsmen showed a little more application.

    1. On many cricket sites, a link to a video featuring two cats being indifferent to okra would be considered off topic.

  8. How awesome would it be if we could control the cricketing schedules and ensure that England played South Africa once this series is over.

    1. How awesome would it be if we could control the cricketing schedules and ensure that England didn’t play 10 one-dayers in a row against India next when it’s as far away from a World Cup as it’s possible to be.

    2. After 2005 the England team felt unbeatable, and subsequently demonstrated the opposite. A 4-0 test win over India, should it happen, will make this team also feel like cricketing gods. To prevent this the ECB has scheduled a protracted set of ODIs, which England will of course lose heavily.

      Memento mori, Caesar. ODI series are this team’s way of keeping their feet on the ground. There is literally nothing that the England management hasn’t thought of.

  9. What I was trying to say is that if i had a super power this woukd be the one I would chose, well this or being able to bowl inswinging yorkers at 94mph.

  10. The inability of most of the Indian batsmen to handle short-pitched bowling (from medium pacers)
    suggests that they will only ever be a top-ranked side when playing at home.

Comments are closed.