England v South Africa 2012 July 17, 2012

The Dale Steyn world ranking method

In which a South African fast bowler determines which team is top dog

With one bad omen after another, South Africa’s tour has been like the opening scenes of a horror film. They arrive in a dingy, obscure European country where the skies are always heavy and sinister and where the rain falls constantly. Their reliable and much-loved old wicketkeeper suffers a horrible accident and then, without even bowling a ball, they hear they’ve dropped down the Test ranking table. All that’s missing is Bob Willis banging out some sinister organ music on his pipes of doom. Welcome to England.

As any horror-film aficionado knows, what is needed in these circumstances is to keep your head down; don’t, whatever you do, split up to try to find the way home; and never say anything that could be construed as tempting fate. But Dale clearly hasn’t read the script.

“We’re the No. 1 team. We’ve got all the players, we cover all bases, so is there something wrong with me thinking we’re the best team in the world?”

Not at all, it’s a free country, Dale. If you want to believe you’re the Queen Mother or the reincarnation of Pegasus, knock yourself out. But please, think of the cricket gods. Remember what happened when Glenn McGrath predicted that Australia would thrash England? Well, yes, admittedly nothing happened the first seven or eight times, but eventually he pushed the gods too far.

Still, I can see why Dale might be a touch aggrieved at the ranking system. England were pants in Dubai and semi-pants in Sri Lanka, and they haven’t beaten South Africa since 2005.

But it isn’t easy to come up with a ranking method, given the eccentricities of the FTP. It’s like being asked to work out whether apples, pears or aubergines are the best, to two decimal places. A Test championship might solve things but there seems as much chance of me dueting with Lady Gaga on Mars as there is of the ICC getting that show on the road.

So naturally cricketers are going to come up with their own alternatives, such as Dale’s system, which is refreshingly straightforward. How does it work, Dale?

“We’re No. 1 in my mind.”

No. 1 in Dale’s mind. Why not? It saves an awful lot of messing about with spreadsheets. Every month, the ICC just gives him a call and asks him who he thinks is best.

So South Africa have the best players and are the best team in the world. But what about the upcoming series, Dale, any predictions?

“It doesn’t need to be pretty. It doesn’t need to be beautiful. We just want to get the job done.”

Coincidentally that’s also the motto of the Bolshoi ballet. My own prediction is that it’ll be damp, ugly and nigglier than an Argyle sweater full of fleas. There’ll be name-calling, DRS shenanigans, accusations about low standards of catering, a lunchtime standoff on a point of obscure cricket law, and a Twitter storm every Tuesday. The usual, in other words.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on August 21, 2012, 16:56 GMT

    when SA left for England there was never any doubt that they are better than England Humble pie!!!!

  • testli5504537 on July 23, 2012, 20:31 GMT

    You may now start eating every single word sir

  • testli5504537 on July 21, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    Steyn you definitely have every right to believe that your team is the best with the quality of players you have and you yourself are and the consistency your team has shown for the last 10 years. Cant remember any other team now that is so consistent particularly outside there home.

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 17:58 GMT

    JOn r

    some of your information is incorrect. when india was no 1 they didnt lose a series in almost 3 years. abroad they beat wi in wi, nz in nz, drew in sa and sl. you said they lost 2 in sa. they didnt. it was 1-1. at home they beat aus twice (2-0 both times) drew with sa 1-1 beat eng 1-0 beat sl 2-0. after the world cup yes they lost 4-0 to both eng and aus and lost their no 1 ranking deservedly. but between 2008-2011 they didnt do much wrong. the only side which did as well or better in that period was sa who won away series in eng,aus,pak,wi and nz. and drew in ind. at home they didnt dominate but didnt lose a series cept to aus in 2008

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 10:32 GMT

    Currently SA is the best team to compete(or dominate) in all conditions(for many years now). England, Australia, India, SL. Pakistan(in UAE) are all dominant in home conditions but it's not the case in away conditions. Lol... but SA is not as dominant in home conditions as abv mentioned teams. The era of dominance all over the world is long gone and may never be replicated again.

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 8:17 GMT

    Andy, your wit has failed to prise even a grin from the awfully serious Colin Clarke, who I'm sure is a jolly nice chap, but just a bit clueless. Could you perhaps point out to him that we have not quite nabbed all the best Saffer players - not according to those boring stats touted by David Kendix, that is. Apparently 4 of the top 10 current batsmen are, well, Saffers that play for SA, and the Saffers who play for mighty Albion are lolling about at numbers 16, 17, 26 and 27. Bit of a rum record there,eh, Colin old chap? Another wee point for Colin to ponder is this: as far uni-dimensional & unimaginative plans, what's the ECB's plan B for scoring test runs? Is it, as dear old Colin might be wont to chuckle, "nab some more Saffers & another Saffer coach!" Is "need a keeper, nab a Saffer" plan C. Well, when the IPL wants to nab our Saffers, (a greedy lot,) could dear old blighty not come a serious cropper? Don't we have the intelligence to try something different? Eh, Colin old boy?

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    For a player like STEYN who has established himself in highest level & widely regarded as one of the best bowlers, got every right to say what he think & believe. Atleast he is not a hypocrite! England are a good team. But that doesn't mean anyone else should not think their team is better & got the ability to go the distance.. Thumbs Up for DALE!!! Looking forward to exciting test series...

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 5:57 GMT

    I'm more interested in the excuses George Dobell will make once SA thrash the poms. Oh this will be good.

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 5:50 GMT

    tho i feel england will beat sa in this series, sa do have a greater claim to the no 1 spot than england in the last 4 years.

    since 2007 - they have beaten aus in aus, eng in eng, pak in pak, nz in nz, wi in wi. drawn with ind in ind twice (which no one does, aus have lost 5 of their last 7 tests there and 2 draws, no wins) . their problem is at home, tho they havent lost a series cept to aus (2-1)in 2008, they have drawn several. 1-1 against ind, eng (tho eng were saved by the last man and rain twice) aus (recently) . they beat sl 2-1 recently. their home record isn't excellent like say india but sa also has the toughest batting conditions so their batsmen dont have it easy in home conditions. most of them have better away records.

    england are still pathetic on the subcontinent. 3-0 loss to an ordinary pakistan batting lineup. everyone criticizes india for being no 1 and losing 4-0 to england. this is equally bad. sa (and aus) are the only 2 teams that do consistently well abroad.

  • testli5504537 on July 18, 2012, 4:45 GMT

    SA definitely would have been the best test team in the world. Why, almost half of the England team were born in SA afterall!

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