Understanding the ICC’s ODI rankings

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England are now ranked the number one side in one-day internationals (ODIs). Here’s why that doesn’t matter.

Lesson one

Rankings tell you what’s happened. They don’t tell you who’s best. They tell you who’s been the best and even then only up to a point (see lesson two).

If England chose to field three players instead of 11 in their next match and those three players were Geoff Capes, Boris Johnson and Limahl, they would still be ranked number one, even though they would clearly not be the best side.

Lesson two

The ODI rankings include only matches played in the last 12 months. Play crap teams for a year and you’ll do okay.

Yes, they’re weighted so that you get more points for beating better teams, but this can be cannily exploited by a side like England. They invested many years in being rubbish at one-day cricket and therefore built up the ratings of all their opponents. They then played okay for a year, but got extra credit because everyone was supposed to be so much better than they were.

Lesson three

ODI rankings care little for context. A World Cup final win is worth the same as a Duckworth-Lewis victory in the seventh match of an already-decided series.

But England lost 5-0 in India

Those were the only five matches they lost in 12 months: won 14, lost five. For their part, India won 17 and lost 10. That’s a worse record. It’s just cold, emotionless maths.

But you’re missing the point – one-day rankings DO NOT MATTER. They measure something that is simply not worth measuring. You might as well rank sides for their fielding drills.

India are world champions – they won the World Cup. All other one-day cricket falls somewhere between being World Cup preparation and just plain dicking about.


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  1. The King Crickeratti are clearly all so busy dancing in the streets or otherwise celebrating England’s elevation to this lofty status, they have been unable to comment on this thread thus far.

    All so busy…

    …with the obvious exceptions of Ged and KC himself.

  2. Summary:

    England are now ranked the number one side in one-day internationals (ODIs). Here’s why that doesn’t matter:

    England are now ranked the number one side in one-day internationals (ODIs). Here’s why that doesn’t matter:

    England are now ranked the number one side in one-day internationals (ODIs). Here’s why that doesn’t matter:

    England are now…

    “And so proceed ad infinitum.”

    1. Don’t really get what you’re saying, but full of admiration for your copy-paste abilities.

  3. I have never looked at rankings, but it seems to me that if the ICC takes rankings seriously, they should update the rankings every time a match has played out. Don’t they have something like “current rankings” that updates everyday?

    In chess, they have something called “live rankings” which is different from the FIDE ranking which is computed at the end of every year. This way you know who is currently the best player in the world, and looking at the official table, you know who was the best over the entire one year period. Works rather well, actually.

  4. One-day rankings do matter. Ranking England as #1 annoys people from countries who take ODIs seriously. This is funny and therefore important.

    As an aside, England as #1 ODI side is a hell of a lot less laughable than the football team being ranked #3 in the world..

  5. Its official cricket is f#ucked. We’re no 1 in a game no one is interested in and have ousted our best batsman because he does not want to play it. All we need now is alan stamford to break out of jail and set up an english t20 franchise.

  6. You are at least consistent. You were recently telling us how we couldn’t judge players based on their past performance, and you extended this to teams. I’m not sure you have entirely addressed the issue of how one then has a conversation about cricket, let alone publishes a much acclaimed blog on the subject, but your constancy in commendable.

  7. KCs right. When you have a format in which you can have a world cup, rankings don’t matter much. The day they play a world test championship, test rankings will also probably lose all importance.

    1. That’s a good summary. A format can only really have one focus. In one-day internationals, World Cups are the point, so rankings are pointless.

  8. They only take into account matches played in the last 12 months? That’s a terrible ranking system, but then we knew that already, because England are… oh crap, here comes the infinite loop…

  9. Actually the rankings do/should mean something, even with the World Cup as the only real focus.

    The seedings for major tournaments are/should be based on a sensible rankings system. That seeding aspect really does matter for tournaments.

    So there are two issues here:
    * people on the whole do not understand the point of the rankings, it is not the case that they have no point;
    * the rankings system should make sense. If KC were correct (only the last 12 months count towards ODI rankings) that does not make sense and the rankings system should be changed.

    But KC is incorrect on this point. Two to three years worth of matches are included in the ratings/rankings, it is simply that the most recent year’s matches rate higher than older matches. Each year in August there is a refresh, eliminating the third year and thus reducing the rankings (at that juncture) to just two years.

    If you can be bothered, the information is all here:


    If you still don’t like the method, let David Kendix know directly what you don’t like and/or how you would recommend that the ICC improve the system – he’s a very open-minded and thoughtful chap.

    Sorry to spoil this lively discussion with facts.

    1. We’d always thought it was a longer period, but on the actual rankings page, it lists the number of matches and it’s just a year’s worth.


      Apologies for the mistake, but this is why we made it. That’s a pretty confusing way to display the information.

      However, this doesn’t alter the fact that dead rubbers are rated the same as World Cup finals. We appreciate the idea is to give dead rubbers meaning, but a corollary of this is that rankings become less meaningful, because in reality, not all matches are equal.

      That’s an inherent weakness of any ranking system really.

    2. We can explain the above point better.

      Rankings work on the assumption that international cricket teams will always be doing their utmost to win every international match. It is not their fault that this is no longer the case.

      Plenty of matches are effectively sacrificed through rotation etc, but these matches carry equal weight.

      That is a fundamental fault with the sport, not the rankings.

    3. No, the seedings for major tournaments shouldn’t be based on anything. Seedings are a totally unfair way of entrenching advantage and shouldn’t exist at all. All draws for sporting competitions should be like the FA Cup.

      It’s ludicrous that Andy Murray (for example) can maintain his world ranking without ever having to beat a player ranked higher than him. They couldn’t make it any easier for the big names to get to the sharp end if they tried. These are supposed to be the best players – they don’t need extra help!

    4. Thanks for the plug Ged, but we believe the evil BBC stole the story from us. Having said that, I sold it to The Sun myself, so let he who casts the first stone etc etc.

  10. 100% sure the scoop was yours at the Dork Ad, sam, I linked to Beeb for ease and to show the story had gone mega.

    Cannot disagree more, Daneel. Seedings ensure that the better players/teams do not get ludicrous advantage simply from the draw and maximise the chance of a difficult draw, not minimise it.

    The FA Cup style of tourny might be a fun “raffle with a skills element”, but “raffle with a skills element” it is.

    1. You think that Roger Federer had a difficult draw at Wimbledon? Seriously? He had 5 piss-easy games against nobodies to warm up before his tournament started for real in the semi-finals.

      How about all those snooker World Championships Hendry won, knowing he’d be kept apart from anyone half decent until the semis at least?

      If you want fair, have a league. If you want a knockout, make it a random draw. Don’t give the best competitors the easiest ride.

      I can’t see how seeding prevents ludicrous advantage for better players/teams – that’s exactly what it’s for. The point is to keep big names in longer to keep the money men happy.

    2. Hate to disagree, daneel, but disagree I do.

      The ICC World Cup, which was the actual rankings/seedings that I was talking about originally, is done league/groups style rather than knockout style.

      And yes, I do think it would be ludicrous if by chance the top four ranked ODI teams all met in the same group and others got an easy ride in another group.

      But I also think that Wimbledon would be more of a lottery without seedings than with. It is not the fault of the seedings that several seeds in Fed’s group (Berdych, Tipsarovich…) played poorly this year. And Djok was in Fed’s group too. On paper, Fed had a tougher draw than Murray IMHO.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, daneel.

    3. Happy to agreed to disagree, just something that’s always bugged me. But Murray’s draw was definitely harder than Federers!

      I have no idea what format the ICC uses, since AFAIK it changes every bloody tournament anyway.

      I’m not sure that seeding really matters too much in cricket, anyway, since there’s so few teams in the finals and so little between most of them.

  11. GS champion earns 2000 points, finalist 1200 and 720 points to semi-finalists. With over 40 tournaments where the winner gets only 250 points, it is very difficult to break into top 10. No need to tinker with the format based on seeding but the ranking points for lower rung tournaments should be increased.

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