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