The Best Test Side?

28 07 2010

Over the last couple of years, and particularly since India attained the number one spot in the test championship rankings, there has been extended debate as to who is actually the best side in the world. Australia, who for so long held onto the top spot, are languishing in third, and are clearly not the force they once were. South Africa are currently the second best rated team but their failure to beat England at home puts paid to their claims. Sri Lanka have lost too many series recently to be considered. Interestingly England, despite being in fifth place, have perhaps as good a claim as any having beaten Australia and drawn with South Africa away from home over the past year, although they will have to beat Pakistan well and retain the Ashes to have this claim stand up to close scrutiny.

India, whose supporters have understandably been the most vociferous in defending their number one status, are currently having the stuffing knocked out of them by Sri Lanka. Yes it is an away series, yes they are missing some key players, but when did this ever stop the Australian or West Indies juggernauts of recent decades? For those Indian supporters who are still keen on test cricket it must be a worrying thing to see this lack of depth exposed so ruthlessly by Sri Lanka, particularly in the bowling. Only a couple of years ago people were feting the Indian bowling attack as potentially one of the best around and had several established and up and coming fast bowlers – Zaheer Khan, Nehra, Sharma, Sreesanth, Pathan, Singh. Our question is this; what has happened to these bowlers? Even a star like Ishant Sharma has seemingly lost his edge and we suspect it will not be long before India lose their top spot to South Africa. After all a side who can’t take 20 wickets in a test match are highly unlikely to win many games.

In our eyes however, this lack of dominance by any one country is not necessarily a bad thing and, in times when test cricket can do with all the advantages possible to keep the 20/20 beast at bay, the added piquancy of potentially 4 or 5 sides battling for the top spot is makes it all the more interesting.

If put on the spot today we would probably say South Africa although the answer is likely to be that home advantage (as in the India Sri Lanka current series) would be a more telling factor at this current time.

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6 responses

29 07 2010
Howe_zat

It’s a bit weird up there. Oddly enough, the rankings pretty much support this theory when you look at the points, as there’s nothing in it anymore. When the rankings started Australia were miles ahead. Perhaps it’s a flaw that they need to have #1 side because, well, they’re rankings.

At the moment, you’d put money on whoever’s playing at home between the top 5. You don’t bet on Pakistan, that’s just dangerous.

29 07 2010
Mahek

If the debate is about which is the best team in the world right now, why bring in the Australian and West Indian dynasties? That’s the only problem I have with people who have this notion of how the best team should be, when the only requirement for a team to be the best is that it’s better than its competition.

One can pick holes in every team’s case for being the best in the world right now. South Africa lost at home to Australia and drew against England. India have played most of their cricket in the subcontinent of late and their bowlers struggle when conditions aren’t favourable (Never mind the fact that when South Africa toured Sri Lanka last time they conceded over 700 in one innings and couldn’t defend a target of over 350 in the next test). Australia have lost to India, South Africa and England and drawn against Pakistan. Sri Lanka have been dominated in India and Australia (They haven’t played in South Africa for almost 8 years) and yet they will go #1 if they win this test.

It’s not too hard to see why Indian bowlers have faded over the past two seasons. They play so much cricket on flat tracks in unforgiving conditions that it’s really difficult to do well for prolonged periods. Unlike England where overhead conditions add another variable, matches in the subcontinent are usually played under clear skies as the rains are restricted to the monsoon season during which there isn’t any cricket.

Also, there is this perception outside that a pitch that takes turn from day one is a bad pitch. The ICC has no problem with a test that gets over within 7 session in Headingley but is up in arms when one gets over after tea on the third day in Kanpur. Never mind the fact that South Africa lost inspite of winning the toss and having the better of the conditions while batting. There was a test in Ahmedabad in 2005 which got over on the fifth day and the match referee Clive Lloyd still complained about the pitch.

So, I ask you this. Are the people involved in running the game ready to recognise the legitimacy of turning tracks and their place in the game of cricket? If not, you will keep getting bowlers’ graveyards.

29 07 2010
Bradders

Only that over the last 35 years there has been one team dominating so that is why its relevant. Agreed you only have to be better than your current opposition but that again is my point – no one is currently with several teams all on a similar enough level where home advantage would probably tell.
As for India and their bowlers – thats exactly why and I absolutely and totally agree with your last point. Lets have pitches with something in it for the bowler – whether its spin or seam. I would rather see a match in which 300 plays 300 and the batsman have to fight for their runs.
Cheers for commenting!

29 07 2010
Mahek

I think it’s relevant only if we’re looking to rate the all-time best sides. The rankings are only a reflection of how things have been in the recent past and we should simply leave it at that. India is number one now but it can change just as quickly – South Africa could well take that position by the end of their series against India later this year.

While you and I are okay with pitches that help seamers and/or spinners, the people in charge don’t feel that way. Heck an international test captain of 6 years spits on a dustbowl after his side can’t chase a target of less than 110 while calls a WACA wicket one with character!

18 10 2010
Vilander

Guess what its oct 2010 and India are still number 1, after drawing SA and trashing Aus.

18 10 2010
Bradders

True. Yet i’m not sure the Australia series counts as a trashing – only just won the first test! I refer you to this article for more up to date views – https://compulsivehooker.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/some-thoughts-on-what-indias-2-0-win-means/

Not disputing their number one status – just that they are not nearly the side the Aussies or the West Indies were as the previous number one incumbents.

Also I would still back Australia, England, SL and South Africa if they were playing at home against no matter who was the opposition.

Thanks for commenting.

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