The former England captain's take on the fortnight in cricket

India deserve to be No. 1

India's rise to the top Tests, West Indies' fighting performance, and the issue with UDRS (06:49)

December 14, 2009

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The Tony Greig Show

India deserve to be No. 1

December 14, 2009

India claimed the No. 1 Test ranking, India v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Mumbai, 5th day, December 6, 2009
India claimed the No. 1 Test ranking © AFP

India's rise to the top spot in Tests
India have become the No. 1 ranked Test side in the world, but it is worth pondering whether or not they have played well enough to justify that ranking. The answer is that they have, but it is also fair to say that this Indian team has not had to play against a hot Australian team. Let's face it, being number one in any sport is to a degree dependent on the opposition. Then again, when the oppression is weak it's not the fault of the champion.

There is little doubt as well that the very ordinary performance by Sri Lanka in the Tests helped India. Kumar Sangakkara and his team were, prior to the series, considered one of the strongest Sri Lankan sides to visit India, yet they capitulated meekly. It seems to me that they underestimated how quickly the Indian batsmen have worked Ajantha Mendis out, and also how much better they play Muttiah Muralitharan. That along with Sri Lanka's dismal performances abroad ensured an easy victory for India.

There is absolutely no reason why they should not be every bit as good playing away. It must have become a psychological problem because I have not been able to identify any meaningful technical faults. It may be that their good performances in the Twenty20 campaign in India will translate to similar results in the ODIs, and this could in turn help in the long term. Mind you, don't let us forget the impact of the innings played by Virender Sehwag. At his best he is capable of undoing the best laid plans.

Shewag falls short of history
Virender Sehwag was on the verge of becoming the only batsman in Test cricket history to make three triple centuries in Tests before he was dismissed for 293 in the third Test against Sri Lanka. Apart from Don Bradman, Sehwag has to be the most destructive batsman the game has seen. The combination of his average and strike rate vouches for this to a degree, but if we were to ask the Test bowlers, they, I am certain would confirm that Sehwag on his day is nothing short of a bowlers worst nightmare.

Having said this, any batsman who goes about his business in such an attacking fashion is on occasions going to disappoint. Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting are great players, but they are more orthodox than Sehwag. As a result, there will be many who would rather watch Sehwag go about his business than anyone else.

West Indies' tour of Australia
It's hardly surprising that the West Indies put on a much improved show in the second Test against Australia. Any team that turns up in Australia just before the first Test at the Gabba is asking for trouble. Add to this the unfortunate problems confronted by Chris Gayle who had to fly 44,000 kilometres to be with his sick mother, and it is not a surprise to me that they lost in three days.

Adelaide was a different matter, and it was refreshing to see the West Indies give the Aussies a little bit of a scare. Dwayne Bravo and Brendon Nash gave West Indies the start they needed on a wonderful Test pitch, but it has become clear in Adelaide that the Aussie attack is a shadow of its former self and they are going to find that taking 20 wickets to win Tests is going to be hard. It's certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that the West Indies can sustain their form going into the third Test in Perth, despite the pitch having a reputation for bounce. If Kemar Roach can refrain from trying to hit all the Aussies in the head he will be a handful, as he is an impressive and young fast bowler.

Australia are also starting to doubt Michael Hussey and to a lesser extent Marcus North, local media are starting to talk up giving youngsters like Phil Hughes, Shaun Marsh and Callum Ferguson a chance. This won't happen in Perth, but it will create extra pressure on Hussey and North. As a result, could provide Pakistan's much better pace attack with an unexpected opportunity when they arrive in Australia for the Boxing Day Test.

Pakistan's tour of New Zealand
Pakistan's attack of Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul and Danish Kaneria were simply too much for New Zealand in the second Test. But it's a credit to New Zealand and their ability to bounce back that they managed to level the series in Wellington. In the first Test, it was Shane Bond at his very best backed up by a 'never say die' team who are superbly led by Daniel Vettori.

Shane Bond catches Umar Akmal, New Zealand v Pakistan, 1st Test, Dunedin, 5th day, November 28, 2009
"This was Shane Bond at his very best" © Getty Images

In the decider in Napier, it has been more of the same from the Kiwis with Ian O'Brien and Darryl Tuffey creating havoc. Had it not been for Imran Farhat's century, things may have been worse. Vettori, Brendon McCullum and Tuffey then saw to it that New Zealand took a handy lead of 248 into the second innings. At the time of recording, Pakistan are fighting back but have a long way to go.

This is Iain O'Brien's last Test and he will be missed. Any bowler who has toured New Zealand knows that every team needs an into the wind bowler, particularly in New Zealand. Places like the Basin Reserve are notorious for almost gale force winds. O'Brien has done those hard yards for New Zealand with distinction, and someone will have to step up and take over.

England's tour of South Africa
England's victory in the one day series in South Africa was a tremendous effort but the Tests are certain to be a different matter. True, the availability and form of certain key players like Jacques Kallis and Kevin Petersen could swing the series either way, but I am still of the view that this will be a tight series. Both the teams have good leaders and plenty of ability, so it may just be that the temperament of the teams will decide the series. South Africa is a tough team to beat at home, and there supporters can make the opposition feel vulnerable.

The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) will be used, and the more I see of it the more it is becoming clear that the team that uses it best will have an advantage. So far bad decisions have, in the main, been eliminated. But we have a long way to go before we perfect the process. A first step could be to eliminate the involvement of the players and leave the whole process up to the umpires.

Posted by HoustonRattler on (December 17, 2009, 4:46 GMT)

I dont know why there is a debate on who deserves the number 1 ranking. Its not like a Nobel peace prize where a committee decides the winner but a ranking system similar to other sports like Tennis, Football etc. This is the system agreed by all the cricket teams and been in place for a while and as per this system India is the number 1 team - DEAL WITH IT. The people who complain are similar to cry baby Serena Williams and her supporters who were on Safina's case throughout the US open for being number 1 without winning a grand slam. It doesnt matter if a team had beaten a particular team or not, its not judgemental its all automated and therefore this article is moot.

Posted by HoustonRattler on (December 16, 2009, 18:32 GMT)

I am not sure why there is so much talk about if a team deserves to be #1. This is not an award like nobel peace prize that gets decided by a comittees decision. Its a ranking system similar to tennis or football or any other sport in the world. Its not about popular decisions or performance against one team, its about being consistent and right now India is the world number 1 - DEAL WITH IT. Dont be a cry baby like Serena Williams or the American media .. Safina is the number 1 though she is yet to win a grandslam.. once more deal with the reality and hope ur team becomes number one the right way.

Posted by Samadonline on (December 16, 2009, 17:40 GMT)

A lot has been said about India not deserving the No 1 ranking in Tests because they haven't beaten Australia or South Africa away. However, let me point out a few facts.

The Australia's Invincibles never managed to beat India away since 1969 until Ponting's team finally won an away series in India in 2004 - a period of 35 years.

South Africa's away test record against India is nothing to write home about.

Why then nobody questioned the Rankings of Australia or South Africa when they were given top ratings? Is success on fast pitches of Australia/South Africa the only criteria for greatness? Artistry on the spinning tracks of India do not matter?

Also, India has been ranked on the same formula that ranked Australia and South Africa as No 1 all these years. Just because India has reached the pinnacle, the formula suddenly seems wrong?

Hypocrisy is alive an well!

Posted by sanrock444 on (December 16, 2009, 6:30 GMT)

I don't really understand the overseas media uproar being created, when India became rank 1. Some just call these rankings are flawed, calculations are warped, a new system should be introduced and all!!....There were times when Australia enjoyed and a long reign and then a short stint by the South Africans. But it's strange that when India reached the summit for the first time, it is as if the cricketing world has turned upside down. Well, Just a reminder. I think everyone missed a stat here. India is currently the only cricketing nation in the world to win a ODI world cup, 20-20 world cup and an unofficial test champs( No 1 position in test matches )...They are the only team to reach the summit in all the 3 forms of the game!!... Australia comes close, having won both ODI and test no 1 positions, but they have not won a 20 20 world cup. So India certainly deserves to be on the top.

Posted by suncric1 on (December 15, 2009, 19:58 GMT)

I think Tony is right in saying Sehwag is a great , his record is almost same as S R Tendulkar's in first 72 matches but he has been able to dictate terms and demoloish sides. He has played many match winning knocks already.

Posted by SuperSharky on (December 15, 2009, 13:54 GMT)

I am also hooting for a Champions Test League. I accept the system for the rankings of the ICC since Steve Waugh and his boys were the champions. The flaws doesn't matter, cause it was the only system for countries to play each other. You can't see the top sides playing each other every year. And with recent success, nobody should argue why India are number 1. Like in the early eighties, everybody just new that the West Indies were the most inform side. Same with India, without any system, just based on recent success.

Posted by Shanel.Sira on (December 15, 2009, 5:35 GMT)

I think ind just had a chance in the first test there batting was not that good compared to the sri lanka batting because they could not set in to the game making a big score there bowling backed them up

Posted by redneck on (December 14, 2009, 22:30 GMT)

@Gaurav_D i have given my reasoning based on fact, if you want to talk about the 03/04 series you would also remember australia were without warne & mcgrath. mate umpires make a bad call every now and then, it goes against sometime and goes in favor other times. get over it! @SatyajitM i think you will find more series victories will translate into more matches won! @Goku_Dragon mate go and look at indias test record in australia! if you call that remarkably well, id hate to see what you call bad!!! and yes australia have won a series in india this decade, which is more than india can claim in australia in the last 100 years! look i thought india played like a number 1 side in the 2nd & 3rd tests vs sri lanka, but i dont see how they can take the no.1 mantle without at least a series win against the supposed no. 2 side either home or away to validate it!

Posted by IndianMigrant on (December 14, 2009, 21:59 GMT)

. There are certain facts which are hard to ignore which clearly puts india above southafrica and australia.

1)In the current decade India has beaten Australia the team of the decade(probably close to steve waugh's team of the century) 7-6 in tests over 5 different series whereas south Africa has been a poor performer against Australia all throughout the decade except for the recent series in Australia.Most of the established SouthAfrican players have been Warne's bunny whereas India has handled Warne with consummate ease. 2) India has won atleast a single test in foreign soil in every major cricket playing country. 3) India has won abroad series in pakistan,england new zealand and drew a series in australia against the all conquering australia's steve waugh billed by some as the team of the century. 4) Only black spot is india didn't win a series in southafrica nor did all conquering steve waugh's me in india. So let's say well done and raise a toast to indian cricket team

Posted by borninthetimeofSRT on (December 14, 2009, 21:36 GMT)

Tony, I think you need not look way too far back in the last decade to remind yourself which team was the only threat to the Invincible Aussies during the times of Hayden-Gilchrist-Martyn-Langer-Steve Waugh-Ponting-Warne-McGrath combo. The only team that came close to winning a series in Australia against them was India, that last test match of Waugh's career still stands testimony to the great contest between the two teams. If any team deserves to be there on No.1 that is India. SA rolled over a weakened Australia when the party was over. India is reaping fruit for what it sowed during Ganguly's tenure as captain. Things would have been different if Sydney Test decisions went the right way. It was a long time coming for India and they deserve the spot on top.

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