April 8, 2012

The curse of No. 1

Neither India nor England have been convincing at the top of the Test rankings, and narrow vision has prevented South Africa from getting there. But it's not a bad thing for the fan
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Following 25 years of domination, first by West Indies and then Australia, the top ranking in Test cricket has suddenly become a slip zone.

Where both India and then England took steady steps, rising one rung at a time to reach the top, on arrival at the pinnacle they have encountered uncertainty. While India proceeded to slither down a greasy fireman's pole, England are currently clinging on grimly with closely clipped fingernails.

Why the sudden problems for the team rising to the top? In India's case they were always destined for a short stay because they reached the pinnacle with batting strength and only steady bowling. To dominate, a team requires not only bowling strength but also depth, and India possessed neither as they sought to conquer a variety of conditions and remain a power. They were also a team built for home conditions, and travelled about as well as seafood salad in the tropics.

England, on the other hand, have a strong, well-balanced attack, with some quality replacements. They are equipped to win away from home, which they did admirably in Australia. Their Achilles' heel has been batting, and more particularly the inability to conquer their spin demons. A general lack of footwork and the-sweep-is-the-answer-to-any-question-posed-by-a-spin-bowler mentality has seen them struggle on slower surfaces.

Despite their batting woes in four consecutive losses, England remained competitive in all those contests thanks to the tireless efforts of their bowlers.

The big difference between India and England and the two sides that dominated before them has been that while West Indies and Australia were far more complete teams, flaws have been exposed in the newer No. 1s.

However, the overall result for the game has been a much more interesting competition since Australia's dominance began to wane following the 2005 Ashes loss. There is now very little between the top six sides and one bad day can lead to an upset. Contrast that with a 25-year period where there were very few challengers to West Indies and then Australia, when predicting series results was simpler than forecasting the daily temperature in Barbados.

The one team that should have been more dominant in the last few years, especially since the addition of Imran Tahir's legbreaks to the mix, is the often disappointing South Africa. They have failed to develop fully under Graeme Smith's rather narrow leadership vision. A bristling pace attack, a decent legspinner and one of the game's great allrounders, complemented by a solid batting line-up, should be enough to regularly beat all-comers in this era of flawed opposition. However, since they beat Australia at the MCG in 2008-09 to clinch their first series victory in that country, South Africa have won only a meagre 38% of their Test matches. It's not too late for South Africa to shed their underachievers' tag, but to win consistently they'll require more aggressive leadership.

It's not enough to just possess a strong attack; the bowlers need to be complemented by positive captaincy. Andrew Strauss is also a conservative leader, and at times he tends to wait for something to happen rather than to try and provoke a mistake. This has hurt England during their recent struggles because the fragile batting line-up has needed to be chasing as few runs as possible.

India are likely to struggle for traction on the greasy pole for a while yet. Their batting mastery is a thing of the past and they only have a moderate attack. When they eventually get around to rebuilding it'll require a new leader with fresh ideas to inspire. Virat Kohli is emerging as a likely candidate.

Australia are currently experiencing a surge on the back of a strong young pace attack and an extremely positive leader in Michael Clarke. However, the looming departure of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey will leave their batting with an air of vulnerability and a far less threatening aura.

This all leads to the conclusion that the status quo is likely to be maintained, with the struggle for the No. 1 ranking retaining a "fire-and-fall-back" feel. It's a far cry from and a big improvement on the days of dominance.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY WalkSchmalk on | April 11, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    jay57870. What a pile of steaming Snow Whites you left. Chappell never suggested Australia were likely to make it back to the top - in fact he made the point the impending loss of Ponting and Hussey would leave their batting looking fragile. England and India HAVE failed to look like a No1 side as they were beaten heavily in away series and SA HAS disappointed with the quality of side they possess on paper. Where's the fairy tale? He told it like it is - look into yourself if you view the truth with such suspicion.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | April 11, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    Deuce03, brittop and clarke 501. My objection to ranking points being awarded in the case of a a rain caused draw is not specific to ENG and SA. They are simply pertinent examples. My objection is that penalizing or rewarding a team based on the weather is, quite frankly, simply stupid. In a system where points are awarded relatively, not empirically, where success is gauged in relation to the prior performance of each team, and weighted to level the playing field, allowing the vagaries of weather to determine an outcome of a test is as useful as throwing dice. A test is a draw if one ball is bowled and no more play occurs - check the rules, I kid you not. And whatever team is ahead in the rankings would get penalized. That cannot be any way be considered fair, or useful!

  • POSTED BY jay57870 on | April 10, 2012, 14:30 GMT

    Ian is obviously confused about his alter-ego: Is it Snow White or Pollyanna or Cinderella ? Spooked by "the curse of No.1," Ian's trying desperately to banish the evil spirit that vexed his mighty Aussie juggernaut. With his oft-failed smoke-and-mirror Snow-White charm (remember Tendulkar), he casts bad juju on India & England as mere pretenders to the throne. And South Africa as a failed imposter. Re: his own Aussies, he's Pollyanna-ishly upbeat that Michael Clarke will mastermind a masterful plot to overthrow the hated Poms and usurp the crown. Still, Ian laments about the lost OZ dynasty. So, out of the blue, he conjures this half-baked illusion: "There is now very little between the top six sides and one bad day can lead to an upset"? Meaning a coup? By whom? Top 6? Confused? Let's do some simple Chappell math: subtract the 4 he's named, remainder 2. But who? The plot thickens: Is it WI or PK or BD or NZ? Gotcha! OMG, they're all Cinderellas! Still confused, Ian?

  • POSTED BY Rrass on | April 10, 2012, 13:18 GMT

    I guess srilanka did not show the commitment to win the second test against england

  • POSTED BY Deuce03 on | April 10, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    @Greatest_Game: Points in the ranking system are calculated relatively, not empirically. SA (#2) drew against NZ (#8) whereas England last summer (#3) drew against Sri Lanka (#4). If both series end 1-0 you'd expect England to gain more points than SA, because their opponent was closer to their level. The system isn't perfect (no system is) but it's not rigged either. In fact the player ranking system have generally worked in favour of SA players for the last year or so.

  • POSTED BY brittop on | April 10, 2012, 11:36 GMT

    @Greatest_game: So SA should have been less defensive in the third test v NZ. So you would ignore rain affected matches - how many overs would have to be lost before that kicked in? Also if a team managed to defeat another in less overs than your cut-off point, wouldn't that make your cut-off point look dubious?

  • POSTED BY shillingsworth on | April 10, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    @Greatest_Game - The fact remains that a 1-0 series win against NZ is worth a lot less than against SL. It may not be entirely fair to SA but it's nonsense to state that the whole rankings system is 'fatally flawed' on the basis of the points allocation for these two series. A system which reflects what we all know is true (that there is no clear number 1 at the moment) cannot surely be that bad.

  • POSTED BY Bollo on | April 10, 2012, 10:52 GMT

    @csowmi7. re. 'Achieving the number one ranking can only be done by thoroughly beating one of the top 3 teams. India achieved it by beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2008 when they were a formidably force`.

    India actually lost 2-1 in SL in 2008, and won the next series at home 2-0. Sure, SL were high in the rankings at the time, far too high for a team which hasn`t won an away series against anyone apart from Bangladesh or Zimbabwe for over a decade. I think if SL had achieved the No.1 ranking - and they had a couple of chances against India to do this - the outcry would have been such that the ICC would have had to reconsider how the rankings were calculated.

    Anyway, a 2-0 home win against Sri Lanka hardly counts as a result to base your claims for world dominance on does it?

  • POSTED BY on | April 10, 2012, 8:00 GMT

    Did someone say England winning in India?? I don't think so . . . The English are a very good team and deserving of the no. 1 ranking; there is no argument there, but India is the better team in India. I am also favouring SA to win the series in England; I just have this funny feeling that the Proteas are going to win this series. They certainly have the will and the talent to do it! That will make SA no.1 and this time I sincerely hope that they can hold on to it for longer than 3 months.

  • POSTED BY csowmi7 on | April 10, 2012, 5:36 GMT

    @jmcilhinny You're absolutely right. Achieving the number one ranking can only be done by thoroughly beating one of the top 3 teams. India achieved it by beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2008 when they were a formidably force. While England beat India 4-0. India's ascent to the top was a tough journey winning series all over the world and hardly losing from 2003. We won 8 series between 2008-2011 while we were at top drawing 3 and losing none. England have also been great in the past 4 years. They won in 2005 in SA, won the Ashes in 2005, in 2009 2-1 and now in 2011 2-1 as well as a 4-0 rout of India. Until removed from the number one spot the team there deserves it completely and all it means is that their results are better than the rest at the moment. The India England series should be good as no team has ever done well in India. India was the only country where the great Aussie team faltered. India is still the final frontier.

  • POSTED BY WalkSchmalk on | April 11, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    jay57870. What a pile of steaming Snow Whites you left. Chappell never suggested Australia were likely to make it back to the top - in fact he made the point the impending loss of Ponting and Hussey would leave their batting looking fragile. England and India HAVE failed to look like a No1 side as they were beaten heavily in away series and SA HAS disappointed with the quality of side they possess on paper. Where's the fairy tale? He told it like it is - look into yourself if you view the truth with such suspicion.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | April 11, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    Deuce03, brittop and clarke 501. My objection to ranking points being awarded in the case of a a rain caused draw is not specific to ENG and SA. They are simply pertinent examples. My objection is that penalizing or rewarding a team based on the weather is, quite frankly, simply stupid. In a system where points are awarded relatively, not empirically, where success is gauged in relation to the prior performance of each team, and weighted to level the playing field, allowing the vagaries of weather to determine an outcome of a test is as useful as throwing dice. A test is a draw if one ball is bowled and no more play occurs - check the rules, I kid you not. And whatever team is ahead in the rankings would get penalized. That cannot be any way be considered fair, or useful!

  • POSTED BY jay57870 on | April 10, 2012, 14:30 GMT

    Ian is obviously confused about his alter-ego: Is it Snow White or Pollyanna or Cinderella ? Spooked by "the curse of No.1," Ian's trying desperately to banish the evil spirit that vexed his mighty Aussie juggernaut. With his oft-failed smoke-and-mirror Snow-White charm (remember Tendulkar), he casts bad juju on India & England as mere pretenders to the throne. And South Africa as a failed imposter. Re: his own Aussies, he's Pollyanna-ishly upbeat that Michael Clarke will mastermind a masterful plot to overthrow the hated Poms and usurp the crown. Still, Ian laments about the lost OZ dynasty. So, out of the blue, he conjures this half-baked illusion: "There is now very little between the top six sides and one bad day can lead to an upset"? Meaning a coup? By whom? Top 6? Confused? Let's do some simple Chappell math: subtract the 4 he's named, remainder 2. But who? The plot thickens: Is it WI or PK or BD or NZ? Gotcha! OMG, they're all Cinderellas! Still confused, Ian?

  • POSTED BY Rrass on | April 10, 2012, 13:18 GMT

    I guess srilanka did not show the commitment to win the second test against england

  • POSTED BY Deuce03 on | April 10, 2012, 11:40 GMT

    @Greatest_Game: Points in the ranking system are calculated relatively, not empirically. SA (#2) drew against NZ (#8) whereas England last summer (#3) drew against Sri Lanka (#4). If both series end 1-0 you'd expect England to gain more points than SA, because their opponent was closer to their level. The system isn't perfect (no system is) but it's not rigged either. In fact the player ranking system have generally worked in favour of SA players for the last year or so.

  • POSTED BY brittop on | April 10, 2012, 11:36 GMT

    @Greatest_game: So SA should have been less defensive in the third test v NZ. So you would ignore rain affected matches - how many overs would have to be lost before that kicked in? Also if a team managed to defeat another in less overs than your cut-off point, wouldn't that make your cut-off point look dubious?

  • POSTED BY shillingsworth on | April 10, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    @Greatest_Game - The fact remains that a 1-0 series win against NZ is worth a lot less than against SL. It may not be entirely fair to SA but it's nonsense to state that the whole rankings system is 'fatally flawed' on the basis of the points allocation for these two series. A system which reflects what we all know is true (that there is no clear number 1 at the moment) cannot surely be that bad.

  • POSTED BY Bollo on | April 10, 2012, 10:52 GMT

    @csowmi7. re. 'Achieving the number one ranking can only be done by thoroughly beating one of the top 3 teams. India achieved it by beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2008 when they were a formidably force`.

    India actually lost 2-1 in SL in 2008, and won the next series at home 2-0. Sure, SL were high in the rankings at the time, far too high for a team which hasn`t won an away series against anyone apart from Bangladesh or Zimbabwe for over a decade. I think if SL had achieved the No.1 ranking - and they had a couple of chances against India to do this - the outcry would have been such that the ICC would have had to reconsider how the rankings were calculated.

    Anyway, a 2-0 home win against Sri Lanka hardly counts as a result to base your claims for world dominance on does it?

  • POSTED BY on | April 10, 2012, 8:00 GMT

    Did someone say England winning in India?? I don't think so . . . The English are a very good team and deserving of the no. 1 ranking; there is no argument there, but India is the better team in India. I am also favouring SA to win the series in England; I just have this funny feeling that the Proteas are going to win this series. They certainly have the will and the talent to do it! That will make SA no.1 and this time I sincerely hope that they can hold on to it for longer than 3 months.

  • POSTED BY csowmi7 on | April 10, 2012, 5:36 GMT

    @jmcilhinny You're absolutely right. Achieving the number one ranking can only be done by thoroughly beating one of the top 3 teams. India achieved it by beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in 2008 when they were a formidably force. While England beat India 4-0. India's ascent to the top was a tough journey winning series all over the world and hardly losing from 2003. We won 8 series between 2008-2011 while we were at top drawing 3 and losing none. England have also been great in the past 4 years. They won in 2005 in SA, won the Ashes in 2005, in 2009 2-1 and now in 2011 2-1 as well as a 4-0 rout of India. Until removed from the number one spot the team there deserves it completely and all it means is that their results are better than the rest at the moment. The India England series should be good as no team has ever done well in India. India was the only country where the great Aussie team faltered. India is still the final frontier.

  • POSTED BY harshthakor on | April 10, 2012, 2:50 GMT

    Sadly,we do not have any outstanding champion test team.This means that the standard of test cricket has declined.However we have witnessed some of the most fierce and intense battles in games in recent years which promote test cricket.The last South Africa-Australia test series is the best example and also the 2nd test between the kiwis and the Aussies down under last year.There seem hardly anything between the top 4 teams and even the calypsos are catching up.

    In some ways it is sad that England could not do justice top the sub-continent conditions and join the ranks of past great teams.Similarly the springboks just lack that cutting killer instinct to consistently win test matches or series and become the champion test team.India hardly deserves a place at the top after it's recent performances.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | April 10, 2012, 2:21 GMT

    @simon_w. You make my point for me. The ENG vs Sri Lanka series in 2010 had exactly the same result as the SA vs NZ series in 2012. ENG & SA each won one game, & the other 2 were rain-draws. However, the rankings changes were remarkably different! For 1 win & 2 rain caused draws Eng GAINED 3 ranking points, UP from 108 to 111. For 1 win & 2 rain-draws SA LOST 1 ranking point, DOWN from 117 to 116. Exactly the same no. of wins and draws in each series, but ENG gained a total of four points over SA. ENG, ranked below SL before their series, (ENG 108, SL 115) were rewarded because rain forced a draw. ENG up 3 points, SL down 3 points. A rained out test rewards the lower ranked team, and penalizes the higher ranked team. SA, ranked higher than NZ (SA 117, NZ 83) lost 1 point and NZ gained 2, yet NZ won nothing & were completely outplayed! NZ gained 2 points for watching the rain fall. Absurd, & until the ICC fixes this, the rankings remain fatally flawed.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | April 10, 2012, 1:42 GMT

    @Spelele - the fact is, Smith IS conservative, when you have an attack that opens with Steyn & Phillander (with Morkel & Kallis as back up), you should be winning EVERYTHING. @landl47 - LOL! They will be lucky to be #1 for one more series! IC is 100% right when he says that the difference between the top 6 sides is fairly small. England are unlucky to win a test in India, & I won't be surprised if over the next "five years" England, Oz, Sth Africa & even Pakistan grab a share of the #1 spot. @Bollo - spot on, no question India deserved to get to #1, but they were highly unlikely to stay there. @jmcilhinney - Oz do have some residual "mystique" as did the WIndies well into the late 90s & early 2000s, however I do think you under estimate where Oz are at. The "revolving door" for Oz spinner has been stopped for 11 tests now with Lyon. As for the batting, only the #3 spot has seen real turnover. (no more than the Morgan/Patel/Bopara saga). Oz are not #1, but well placed to get there.

  • POSTED BY Deuce03 on | April 9, 2012, 23:55 GMT

    @Shongololo: Kallis is undoubtedly one of the greatest all-rounders there's ever been, the best currently playing, and also one of the top four batsmen of the last twenty years, but it's difficult to crown him the greatest ever over the head of Sir Garry Sobers. Keith Miller and Imran Khan also merit serious consideration. Is "one of the greatest of all time" not a sufficient accolade?

  • POSTED BY Exfactor44 on | April 9, 2012, 23:02 GMT

    I agree for one that Strauss has a habit sometimes of not really attacking nor defending in a positive manner but occasionally allowing the team to sit somewhere in the middle. However the team has still seen some good success with him at the helm.

    As for the English bowling attack vs. the Indians. With the exception of Sharma you have an attack made up of individuals who are mostly taller, 5mph faster and significantly more aggressive for longer spells. Swann is top quality spinner but on the sidelines we have had Yardy, Tredwell and now Panesar is coming back. Not to mention KP who can occasionally be useful and Collingwood with his occasional medium pace.

    Huge catagorical bonus for the English team though is fitness: Its fair to say India's athletic efforts are often lethargic at best. This is surely going to give England more staying power in the longer term.

  • POSTED BY montys_muse on | April 9, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    Frequent injuries to bowlers are forcing captains to not over bowl them even though they are having a great spell! Probably explains Smith's defensive captaincy during the 3rd test aginst NZ recently!

  • POSTED BY montys_muse on | April 9, 2012, 21:31 GMT

    I guess injuries to bowlers is one of the key reasons for defensive captaincy these days....and its just appalling to learn of players getting injured left, right and center too often these days!

  • POSTED BY rocknrola on | April 9, 2012, 20:53 GMT

    Both Pakistan and Sri Lankan pitches are slow and similar to Indian pitches. Playing against them at home or away is same. It is same for all the three teams. England and New Zealand are weak in Asia. Ind/Pak/SL are weak on fast pitches. Right now only SA is good in both home and away.

  • POSTED BY on | April 9, 2012, 19:14 GMT

    A nice conclusion, but overall analysis has a few flaws. When India rose to power, it was not merely the batting prowess. In Sreesanth (SA '06, '08), Ishant Sharma (AUS '07, WI '11), RP Singh (ENG '07) Pathan and Balaji (2003,04) they certainly had a young brigade capable of taking 20 wickets alongside Zaheer, Kumble and Harbhajan. The problem was, none of the aforementioned barring Kumble, had the skill and passion to build on their gains. Similarly England developed an excellent bowling attack with genuine bench strength.They showed in SL recently, they are resilient and skilled. But the batting remains flaky, esp when outside of home comforts. SA should really have broken ahead of the race, with Tahir now they really have the missing piece in their jigsaw. Their problems are entirely mental. As long as Smith keeps playing a banker when he can afford to be a punter e.g. NZ series, they'd keep looking for ways to avoid a defeat first. That said, their openers don't look that solid..

  • POSTED BY simon_w on | April 9, 2012, 19:12 GMT

    @Greatest_Game -- the way the points are calculated does need to be looked at, of course, but it's the same for every team. England had exactly the same situation at the beginning of last (northern hemisphere) summer, when weather denied them a 3-0 home win over Sri Lanka. You have to have cut-offs for ranking points, and you can always say that the table would be different if they cut the line somewhere else (if it was drawn in the mid 90s, Australia would no doubt still be top...!). No-one rigged these rules to make England #1, and SA will have their chance this summer. Can't wait -- it's gonna be so exciting!

  • POSTED BY spinkingKK on | April 9, 2012, 16:26 GMT

    I think England is definitely No1. They have batsmen like Jonathan Trott, Kevin Peterson and Matt Prior who can perform under any conditions. With a classy spinner in Greame Swan, they have the bowling for any conditions as well. I think they will win the upcoming series against India in India. This was one feat which the Australians struggled to achieve. When they achieved it finally in 2004, it was because of some game of policitcs in India as they gave a green top to the Australians in one of the venues. Also, by the time the Aussies won that series, their downfall started. I think England can dominate for a while. India will be lacking the batting and bowling strength to beat England in the home series.

  • POSTED BY annon on | April 9, 2012, 14:38 GMT

    ranking is only meaningful with a well distributed match plan for each team. Only some teams get what they want. Then how about the seasons and weather? Player ranking is more meaningful. You can rank the teams by including marks to individual players as well, rather than wins & losses only. I am sure that we can have a little help from mathematiians like Duckworth & Luice here as well. It will be somewhat similar to tennis ranking.

  • POSTED BY on | April 9, 2012, 12:50 GMT

    england needs kiswetter as opener and cook should lead his test team.....strauss days are over now.......

  • POSTED BY rawcrickettalent on | April 9, 2012, 11:48 GMT

    and WHILE i agree that south africa are a pretty great team and probably the best team right now...i don't see a good spinner in their ranks....Imran Tahir is good but not so good because he wasn't even selected for Pakistan :P so he came to south africa...before south africa can be called no:1 they need a great spinner...england have good depth in the spin bowling department with swann and panesar ........

  • POSTED BY on | April 9, 2012, 10:54 GMT

    It is true that the game is become much more watchable with most teams being in a position to upset each other on their day. West Indies is currently showing Australia a thing or two . The key is bowling strength and this is where India failed especially in conditions that are not dust bowls. England have had most of their successes at home and in Australia where the wickets have become a lot more bowler friendly and there is no denying the fact that England has a very good pace attack. Sadly the best team in the world south africa seems stilted in its approach . Instead of sweeping everything before it, it lost to Australia at home. India is going to struggle a lot more to make it back to the top with some of its top batsmen on the verge of retirement and not too many great bowlers on view. Clearly the next few months and perhaps years too seem to be more of the same - tight finishes and if you dont have any team preferences, you will have fun !! sridhar

  • POSTED BY kharidra on | April 9, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    The factors that have breached the gap between teams that dominated in the past decades and in the current scenario - Athleticism has improved among the younger lot and the hitherto not so athletic teams. The taste of win has been felt by many teams with the introduction of world cup in 1975. The coaches have also ensured that teams that were not exposed to strategies of the earlier decades have been given inputs in that direction. Teams are now wary of players IN THE OPPOSITE cap who can make best use of conditions.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | April 9, 2012, 10:14 GMT

    I think that this argument about the #1 ranking will go on for some time regardless of results because there simply isn't any one team good enough to take the crown in the undisputed manner that WI and Australia did in the past. I don't agree with any claims that the team that holds the top ranking don't deserve it. India deserved to lose the #1 spot when they did but they deserved to hold it when they did too. They achieved the top ranking by having better results than everyone else and so did England. England's results were good enough that they could afford to lose four games on the trot and still stay at the top. The top teams are rather closely matched so I can accept people making a case for their own team to be #1 but all the talk about the team that is there not deserving it is rubbish.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | April 9, 2012, 9:45 GMT

    @HawK89, I disagree with you about Australia always looking dangerous when other teams don't. I think that it's more a case of, for fans at least, Australia still having some residual mystique about them from their long period of dominance. Everyone got so used to Australia winning so often for such a long that we still haven't got over it, even though they are no better than anyone else now and for a few years now. Australia is still a good team and has improved from their recent low water mark but they lack the consistency as a team and as individuals that they use to have and they don't appear likely to win any more consistently than at least SA and England right now. They have some bright young bowling talent but they are still inexperienced and their revolving door for batsman recently has been surpassed only by that they've had for spinners.

  • POSTED BY shillingsworth on | April 9, 2012, 9:44 GMT

    @Greatest_Game - you forget that it rains in England too. Look at the series against Sri Lanka last year.

  • POSTED BY Shongololo on | April 9, 2012, 9:42 GMT

    C'mon Ian Chappell, you know deep down that Jacques Kallis is not "one of the game's great allrounders" but is the game's greatest ever allrounder. Look at his numbers, over many years, and ask yourself: If he was Australian, would I preface my my statement with "one of"? No, you'd have hailed him as the best by far, going right over the top in your gushy tribute...just as you get excited about the current Australian team that has struggled to shrug off a very mediocre West Indies in the T20s and ODIs and is hardly having everything its way in the First Test. I do agree with you about Graeme Smith, though. The AB de Villiers and Gary Kirten duo is more likely to deliver the consistency and success South Africa is well capable of.

  • POSTED BY chamni96 on | April 9, 2012, 8:53 GMT

    well- i feel that ind are nowhere near even the no 3 position. I feel sa.eng,aus and pak are the true contenders for no 1. ind and sl are always competing though it is quite a long time before they are actual contenders. NZ should be higher than no 8. It is quite tough to name them no 8 as they drew SA twice.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | April 9, 2012, 4:18 GMT

    Does a tennis player not deserve to be #1 because they lose a tournament or two? If they have won enough tournaments previously then a couple of losses will not mean that they lose the ranking. Does a tennis player not deserve to be #1 because they can't play as well on all surfaces? There have been plenty of #1 players who were not equally good on all surfaces. Those considered great have been good on all, but there aren't that many greats. The same goes for cricket. This England side are certainly not great but it seems that some people's idea of a #1 team has been distorted by the great WI and Australia teams of the past. You don't have to be great to be #1. You just have to have been better then everyone else for long enough, and England have been. SA were unlucky with rain in NZ but Egland were unlucky with rain against SL in England. If SA had not lost home Tests to Australia and SL then the rain wouldn't have mattered. It's never about just one factor.

  • POSTED BY Busie1979 on | April 9, 2012, 3:54 GMT

    While I'm usually the first to stick the boot into Ian Chappell's comments, this time I think he is close to the mark. That said, in a year or two, any team could find a few superstars that changes the dynamic. South Africa and English captaincy is not all that inspiring. South Africa have underachieved. They have a few overrated players - Boucher, Morne Morkel, and Duminy. The latter two have not realised their talent, the former has the keeping skills but not good enough batting skills. They are also one opener short and Tahir still needs (and will) find his feet. England's batting is really good - Cook, Pieterson, Trott, Bell, and Prior (keeper batsman) pick themselves. Strauss is solid but unspectacular. They are full of good bowlers, but lack a genuine superstar strike bowler. Their number 6 is a problem. India lack bowling depth but batting is no problem. Australia have selection policy issues and need to unearth a top order batsman who can make big scores (other than Warner).

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | April 9, 2012, 3:09 GMT

    There is a lot of talk about who deserves the#1 ranking and, at the moment, there seem to be several SA fans emboldened by the closeness of the current race to make big statements on stories about England. The simple fact is that the rankings incorporate results over a fairly long period of time so that gaining the #1 ranking requires sustained success rather than just playing one or two good series. I would agree that SA have been more consistent than England recently but the fact that they haven't made it to #1 just goes to show that they've been mediocre at home. They probably are the best team on paper but that just says that they have under-performed on the field. England have had two relatively poor tours on the trot but the main issue was batting against spin in spin-friendly conditions. That will not be a factor playing SA in England. I'm not saying that success at home is enough to satisfy me or England but it should be enough to see off SA and reinforce that #1 ranking.

  • POSTED BY simon_w on | April 9, 2012, 2:15 GMT

    As an England fan, of course I wouldn't mind seeing England assume a position of dominance similar to that which the West Indies and then Australia enjoyed, but while that's by no means impossible it certainly doesn't look especially likely right now. South Africa and England look very evenly matched -- right now I don't think SA have done anything to prove they're clearly better than England, and the reverse is also true. SA have the chance to do something about that in the summer -- a Test series win for the Proteas would make that case for them, although a home win for England would be less conclusive is the opposite direction. England in the UAE, despite the abject batting and not really being able to complain about a 0-3 defeat, were always competitive (the contrast with India in England and Australia was palpable). If England can see SA off this summer fairly convincingly, and perform creditably in India at the end of the year, they'll stay no.1 and be good value for it.

  • POSTED BY Drew2 on | April 9, 2012, 1:49 GMT

    @Leggie - I don't understand? Yes India did brilliantly home and overseas from 2005 to 2011, but that was really the exception to most of their history. Once again, India's batting strength has been very strong, even beyond the Tendulkar/ Dravid era. Chappell would only agree with this but his point about home conditions is well made. As of 2010, India had won 23 overseas tests and lost 82 (not counting Zimbabwe and Bangladesh). Sure they had a purple patch in recent years, but they have slid back to their old ways again. If they could develop pace bowlers to go with their spinners, they would rise to the top more often, but no, when India lose overseas we go back to they same plan - make raging turners at home to exact revenge. 'round and 'round we go. That's what Chappell mean's by home conditions.

  • POSTED BY Nerk on | April 9, 2012, 0:46 GMT

    @vrn59 - "He [Smith] cannot be characterised as a defensive captain merely because he doesn't take too many risks." Exactly how would you define a conservative captain then? Smith has, at his disposal, the best bowlers in the world. He has a batting line up that can deliver runs anywhere, anytime. So how is it that Sth Africa cannot take the next step up? Smith has to take the blame somewhere along the line. If Australia in the 90s and early 2000s had a captain like Smith, even McGrath and Warne wouldn't have taken as many wickets. The fact is, when things are going well, Smith is good. He can sit back and watch the team win. But if things aren't going well, like in India, he just sits back and hopes his team can draw.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | April 9, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    As the No 1 ranking assumes more and more importance, questions will only intensify until the ICC overhauls the calculation methods. The current method penalises or rewards a team in the case of a draw, EVEN IF THE DRAW IS CAUSED BY BAD WEATHER. ODIs and T20 games shortened by rain are abandoned, or decided by Duckworth-Lewis. Tests are a draw if ONLY ONE BALL IS BOWLED!!! SA recently LOST a point because 2 of the NZ tests were drawn because of rain, despite the fact that SA won the only completed test, outplayed NZ in the 2 drawn tests, and won the series. Absurdly, SA's points for a match win and a series win counted LESS than 2 rained out matches!! Had SA not been penalised, England would NOT be No 1. (ENG & SA have 116 points each; only a percentage point puts ENG at the top.) ENG cannot be considered a legitimate No 1 under the current rules, & the test rankings will be pointless until the ICC & Reliance change the absurd rules concerning uncompleted tests.

  • POSTED BY on | April 9, 2012, 0:11 GMT

    @spelele every1 knows South Africa r the best in the world, we can play on any conditions (including spin), bt we r too inconsistent and not ruthless enough, whereas england hv bn ruthless in their conditions so gv them credit (albeit relying on our players, bt dts a topic of its own). England deserve no.1 for now.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 23:43 GMT

    I just laugh at the English with their imaginary depth and "stil learning" .Why is it that England are conviniently "still learning" when they lose. England also have some old players in there current squad

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 22:59 GMT

    One word: "Parity". All is well at the top. Just that the parity is here to stay. And there is never enough room for two at the summit, is there?

  • POSTED BY Spelele on | April 8, 2012, 22:34 GMT

    Why do people distort stats to prove their point? English fans don't like it when stats are cited from 2007 (ENG's stats do not even come close to SA's during this period), but readily choose and pick stats to convince us of their no.1 status. Even when we look at stats over the last 2 years, SA's record would trump England's since ENG had only one notable win during this period against India, but lost terribly to PAK, and drew against SL. SA, on the other hand, won against both SL and NZ and drew only against Australia. There is only one logical conclusion from these facts. England's record in the last 5 years only just trump's SA's when we arbitrarily start from the middle. If we start from the beginning of that period (2007), SA are far superior. And if we look at recent results (from the last 2 years), SA is still ahead of England. Stop distorting stats please!

  • POSTED BY Spelele on | April 8, 2012, 21:59 GMT

    @Trickstar: you have totally missed the point. I am saying that sometimes (as in the case of the 3rd Test against NZ) Smith is wrongly criticized for making what is otherwise a rational decision. "Going for the jugular" is great, but it needs to be done when necessary. Was it 'necessary' for SA to "go for the jugular" in the 3rd Test against NZ thereby risking drawing a series they deserved to win (when the net result of winning the match would have been attaining a disputable title as no.1)? I say not. In any event, the declaration proved to have been made at the right time as SA had numerous chances to win the match, but didn't take them (there were at least 5 dropped catches!).......And your point about ENG 'at least winning the occasional series away' is misplaced since, save for beating a declining Aus, there is no 'away' series win to speak of (but plenty of heavy away loses - something SA have avoided since 2006). Thanks for acknowledging SA's quality though :) Lol!

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 21:36 GMT

    Totally agreee with Ian. SA probably have the best cricketing talent in world cricket today. I mean , 3 of the 6 batsmen England(The #1 rancked team) have in their test side are SAfricans,the #1 test batsman is AB de Velliers who is also second in the ODIs where Amla is tops.Dale Steyn is also miles ahead of the test bowling pack with Morkel at 3 and Tsotsobe #1 in ODIs.SA also have a batting line up dat has the second best batsmen( to Sachin) of the old heads still playing today.Maybe the problem is with the Skipper(Smith),who knws, but seriuosly, it baffles me as to why they still second in all 3 formats of the game when they should be the top dogs holding world cricket by the scruff of it neck, because no team comes close to matching them playa for playa

  • POSTED BY Leggie on | April 8, 2012, 21:35 GMT

    @Drew2 >> As for India being a team built for home conditions...history shows that overwelmingly. >> That's precisely the point I want to argue vehemently. Please check the records once again and you will see that from 2005 to 2011 (before the England and Australia series), India won in England, NZ, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and "drew" in South Africa. Australia - if i may say - was the last frontier. So to make a blanket statement that this team was for "home conditions" is absolutely baseless. Agree that India had no world class bowlers and it's bowling always weak. But to mock at the complete team - that includes some fine batsman of our era is unfair. This.. coming from Ian Chappel - one of the commentators I love and respect - is more than a little disappointing.

  • POSTED BY Trickstar on | April 8, 2012, 20:51 GMT

    @Spelele LOL the trouble with SA and that stat you pulled out of only losing one series at home since 2007, is that they have only won one series at home since 2008, what kind of record is that, it's appalling for a side with such quality players. You're very quick to have a dig at England but at least we have dominated at home, as well as occasionally winning away. You mention gambling or the lack of it by SA, that's part of their problem, their conservatism knows no bounds. Smith has always shown he would rather draw a game than declaring earlier and go for the jugular and try to win but apparently fans like you are happy with that approach.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 20:34 GMT

    Only mister chappell can write about test cricket for 25 years, discuss England and India's turmoils and not mentions the word "Pakistan" once. Imran may have not been "dominant" what ever that means, but for a brief period of 5 to 7 years(circa 84/85 through 91/92), noone will be able to predict a result against Pakisatan like it was "sunshine in Barbados". His dislike and disdain for Pakistan runs a mere microinch thin.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 20:33 GMT

    spot on ian, even though aussies had an easy time in test series at home, i am still waiting how they perform away in conditions that will not not assist fast bowling, english fast bowlers have actually performed fairly well in conditions not aiding fast bowlers. South Africa and England have the best bowling attack, followed by Pakistan. Aussie fast bowlers kept the Indian batting line up at bay but whether the same bowling unit is equally good on flat surfaces remains to be seen. What Australia needs is a good spinner, nathan lyon is a decent offie, but i don't see him as a wicket take. Even India don't have a world class spinner anymore, ashwin is good in the limited over format but I am not convinced about his capabilities when the batsmen is not under any sort of pressure to attack him. Pakistan has a bowling attack for all seasons, their fast bowlers can come to the party in conditions that aid fast bowling and their spinners are a handful in subcontinent like conditions.

  • POSTED BY i.love.ice.creams on | April 8, 2012, 20:11 GMT

    That's a pessimistic approach from this critic. India has been dealt with scorn. Every team has it's own weaknesses: here, the bowling. But you can't justify calling them "Home Baby". England also claimed the crown with some feats, not just coincidentally or by mere fortune. They merely need another reef over their batting attack. South Africans have been a bit unlucky. Mr Chappel, if you're reading then I'd like to point out that during those previous years of WI-Aus monopoly, conditions were far more moderate. There weren't so many technologies, not so many new techniques as today. In those days, a coach couldn't evolve the weakness for any bowler/batsmen by a computer software. Things are much more fragile and mutating now. It is several folds more difficult to retain a title for long compared to that era.

  • POSTED BY vrn59 on | April 8, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    An observation about Mr. Chappell's views on GC Smith: this man has served as captain of SA's Test team for nearly a decade and has delivered very well. He cannot be characterised as a defensive captain merely because he doesn't take too many risks. It must also be noted that Smith has always had world-class fast bowlers at his disposal: SM Pollock, Ntini, Steyn, M Morkel, Kallis and Philander. He doesn't always need to attack excessively as his bowlers are always picking wickets at regular intervals. Smith has led his side to Test match/series wins all over the world, apart from being a great opening batsman, especially in the fourth innings. SA do some to choke in crunch situations at times but the blame for that must be shouldered by the whole team, not just the captain. There are many opinions in this forum that Smith must be replaced by AB de Villiers as Test captain. de Villiers' captaincy in ODI cricket has been good, but we still haven't seen enough to make a firm judgement.

  • POSTED BY mathewjohn2176 on | April 8, 2012, 18:51 GMT

    @ Bollo ," imagine they `are still on top` after their appalling performances over the past 2 years is beyond me" ,you are wrong.India lost the first test series in England July 2011 after reaching no.1 in dec 2009 and after that period till last England series,they never lost a test series in between.Its not even 1 yr complete since England and australia Series debacle and you say " indians performances are appalling over the past 2 yrs" ? Wake up and check before posting here.@ landl47, England is a good team currently among the rest and thats why they are holding on to no.1 by a thread.By looking at England performances in UAE and srilanka,I don't think they will be able to keep the no.1 ranking by end of this year,forget about next 5 yrs.Currently every team looking good on Home conditions and there is a narrow gap among top 6.By this year end ,will come to know is SA or England will be in top?.current scenario is very interesting I would say.

  • POSTED BY ZsZs on | April 8, 2012, 18:08 GMT

    "Closely clipped fingernails" or "chewed off fingernails" Ian? :)

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 17:40 GMT

    hail chappellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 17:06 GMT

    Mr chapell i dont agree with. the older sides ie the west indies an australia of old had been a perfect side. and the opponents they faced were a lower level team( not to disrespect the others) . but with the amount of talent they had they just simply overwhelmed the opponents. if one didnt click they had ten others to back them up. while opponents had 2-3 quality players . coming to recnet teams ie india an england. india has a good attack and in bowling and batting. one just simply doesnt rise to No, 1 on batting alone. the biggest problem with india is the IPL> with there bowlers getting burned up. the batsmens flaws getting exposed to world like never before. also indian bowling if carefully nurtured is among top three. the problem comes as a good fast bowler comes we over use hi,m. an once his form dips we just shunt him eg R.P singh. Munaf patel. and countless other. instead of dumping one after other. cant we just save them. adn use carefully. we do and india will be best agai

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 16:58 GMT

    Hot Rod "says".... the problem is that they are all bums at present! Give me that old time test cricket not the pop culture version of the game. Players that are hard as nails and will fight tooth and nail to save a test not just scoring a pretty 30 or 40 runs. They write a biography before they earn their dues then run of to the IPL, sky rocket to super status on the back of a slog or two and call them selves cricketers!

  • POSTED BY balajik1968 on | April 8, 2012, 16:54 GMT

    I personally feel this fluid situation will continue with England being ahead because collectively they have players in the middle of their prime years. Australia, South Africa and India continue to face rebuilding issues. Somewhere in the middle of this decade these teams will have been more or less rebuilt. It is then that a new order could emerge, and around that time, England will have to start rebuilding. Simply based on resources these four countries will dominate the game, while the others will struggle. As for Pakistan, it all depends on when that country comes out of its internal turmoil. Sri Lanka should start looking beyond Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene. Chandimal looks good, Mathews needs to stay injury free. New Zealand needs an inspirational captain. Sammy seems to be doing a good job with the Windies, but things could slip back suddenly. Bangladesh has a young team, we need to see if they collectively mature. Zimbabwe is an unknown, ditto for Afghanistan.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 16:48 GMT

    Ian Chappel is the most intelligent cricket commentator out there and his reflections are usually spot on. I agree with this article whole heartedly. Indians will never succeed in the top as you need quality bowlers to win test matches,you have to take 20 wickets to win a test mach,that is it. Unless,they find some good bowlers I am afraid they will be a team resigned to only winning the subcontinent. I agree that South Africa should be the number 1 team but have time and time again underperformed

  • POSTED BY StatisticsRocks on | April 8, 2012, 16:42 GMT

    Mr. Chapell No team of today has the ability to dominate like the WI and Aussies of the 90's did. It's no surprise given the amount of cricket these teams plays today, especially ODI and 20-20's and, the ability of the players to adapt quickly to all the different conditions makes it hard for any one team to dominate. I am pretty sure no team will be able to dominate and stay #1 for a long time. One thing I agree is that India has the weakest bowling attack .

  • POSTED BY Spelele on | April 8, 2012, 15:31 GMT

    The point is that sometimes even the more rational of Smith's decisions are criticized as being "conservative". Although I can't wait till AB becomes the Test captain, I have a lot of respect for Smith. Call him defensive, but he leads from the front. When he gets going, SA are bound to win. His so-called arrogant attitude sends a clear message to the opposition. SA's problem has always been inconsistency (loses in between wins). It is good to see Gary and Smith encouraging an approach from the premise that we should not lose first. So what is this leads to more draws? ENG boast about having lost only one series since 2009 (apparently, that proves their no.1 status). However, SA have only lost one series since 2007! A far longer span than England's. The so-called failure to win a series at home is overhyped; especially since SA were not losing series throughout that period (only one loss). ENG's draw to SL ended a streak of loses in Asia which SA have never encountered.

  • POSTED BY AvidCricFan on | April 8, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    India's strong batting line up is now a past history. Tendulkar is a matter of time before he is gone. Shewag is now only a flat wicket bully. The young talent is too much into playing IPL on flat Indian wickets. They don't get time to think and develop skills required for test cricket. Given how cricket is managed in India, I don't believe India will be a force to reckon in test cricket for a while. I don't think any subcontinent team will have strong test team.

  • POSTED BY Spelele on | April 8, 2012, 15:17 GMT

    Most of the criticism against Smith is unwarranted. An example is how he was criticized for not declaring earlier in NZ in the 3rd Test (apparently, a win would've made SA no.1). I'm sorry, but that just isn't true! The true number one will be decided when SA tour ENG. We knew this even before the NZ series. Winning the NZ 3 -0 (or 2 - 0) was consequently irrelevant as most people would have still questioned SA's number one status. There was no need to gamble and try to be no.1 as this could only realistically happen if ENG messed up in SL. SA had abandoned any thoughts of chasing the no.1 status when the first test was ended prematurely by bad weather. There was no need to continue chasing this on an uncertain anticipation that Eng might lose to SL; especially since (such efforts notwithstanding) the cricketing world would have regarded the Eng tour as the determinative one. The remote possibility of being a disputed number one was not proportional to the risk of drawing the series...

  • POSTED BY rockyyy on | April 8, 2012, 14:42 GMT

    guys wait for windies team, they have a formidable youngsters in their team with gayle coming in , wat they just need is a good management and good board,

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 14:27 GMT

    The next twelve months will tell, won't they! First SA in England, then England in India. Should - mind you, I am NOT saying they will - England prevail on both occasions, the travails in the Middle East will be seen as a minor glitch and the next Ashes series as a showdown for the crown. Should SA win in England, it rather settles the issue but an England win followed by a tour to India where the hosts are triumphant would be just what Indian fans dream of. No matter what, it's going to be intriguing!

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | April 8, 2012, 14:16 GMT

    Well well well... here is Mr. Chappell once again with another of those articles. Contrary to what he and many others think, I feel India have a bright future ahead along with SA. India's major problem has been their lack of bowling options, especially in the pace department. Add to that injury problems and fitness issues. I don't think Indians are 'built' only for home conditions so to speak. India have done well in all conditions over the last decade. They have won tests at venues which would only suit the home side. If India are only good at home then that same argument goes for England as well. England are not any better either. They still can't play spin and their problems will continue. SA on the other hand have a good chance to reach the summit and stay there for a while but they too should learn how to win in the sub-continent. They have not won a major series in India or SL yet. Australia to me will NEVER be the team they were 8-9 years back.

  • POSTED BY Drew2 on | April 8, 2012, 13:59 GMT

    @Leggie, I think that you need to read this article more carefully. No one is arguing that India wasn't a genuine no. 1. It's just that they weren't there for very long. This article is spot on. India may have had good batting strength, but the same cannot be said of their bowlers. They have never had a bowler with a career average under 29. That includes all of their legendary spinners. You need great bowlers as well as batsman to stay no. 1 for a long period, plus depth. As for India being a team built for home conditions...history shows that overwelmingly. ......and @Saad Parekh...you have to be joking! India have never won a series in Australia, never won more than 2 tests in a series against Australia and were recently decimated by Australia. How are they more pathetic??

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | April 8, 2012, 13:32 GMT

    England are far better placed than Chappell indicates. Their recent problems in the subcontinent were simply due to the fact that they haven't played enough cricket there. Their team is relatively young, especially the seam bowlers, well-balanced, only lacking one middle-order batsman. SA are short an opener, middle-order batsman, W/K and a spinner (suggesting that Tahir is a decent spinner at test level is hardly warranted on his career so far) and the mighty Kallis is 36 now and nearing the end of his career. Australia's young pace attack might be useful if it can stay fit, but the batting looks very much under par and with no test quality replacements in sight for the aging Ponting and Hussey. India just lost 8 tests to England and Australia, nuff said. Pakistan are held together by Misbah, now 37, and Ajmal, who can't do much outside the subcontinent. Sri Lanka have no seam bowling and their great batsmen are in their mid-thirties now. I see England as #1 for the next 5 years.

  • POSTED BY Bollo on | April 8, 2012, 12:31 GMT

    @Leggie, this Indian team were rightly questioned about their ability to win away against quality opposition - a drawn and a lost series against SL, and the continued failure to win in SAf or Aus (quite apart from the 4-0 humiliations in Eng/Aus), meant they were never a genuine No.1 team. No questions about the rise to the top, but the steep descent was no surprise.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 12:15 GMT

    @clarle, south africa, england and srilanka are weak sides? and btw we levelled the series against australia in 2010 as well.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    Long lasting problem for India is Bowling that's y struggling in overseas & present coach also not upto the level , but sure they will retain No.! spot.Everyone knows chappell never likes Asian to keep No.1 spot........

  • POSTED BY GoCho on | April 8, 2012, 11:30 GMT

    Spot on Ian! I think South Africa have the best chance to be at the no1 spot for the longest given the current team composition. With Philander joining Steyn and Morkel, they will be formidable on seaming/fast wickets. Their record in the subcontinent is the best among the other teams anyway, largely due to the fact that they have among excellent players of spin in Kallis and deVilliers. India will struggle to remain in the top 4 unless they unearth some real fast bowling talent with the stomach to play test cricket

  • POSTED BY candyfloss on | April 8, 2012, 11:30 GMT

    I believe we can only keep dreaming about the no.1 test spot as long as our current administrators continue at the office.The way cricket is run here its amply clear that no one in the BCCI cares about test cricket.We can fantasise about regaining the no.1 test spot as much as we want, the ground reality is different though.The mortifying defeats have had no impact as the IPL continues to grab headlines here and I wont be surprised if Rahul Dravid's spot is now taken by the IPL heroes like Raina or Jadeja.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 11:29 GMT

    i dont know whats the problem with mr.chappel...graeme smith is by no means the best captain ever but he isnt a bad one either...he is a very good skipper and though he may not have won his team any tournament he has led them to record victories with his own personal batting....i wonder what chappel would have said about ponting?he was good but wasnt a great captain....after the retirement of key players look at his batting stats...when everyone was there, there was less pressure on ponting and he looked the best batsman in the world...

  • POSTED BY Simoc on | April 8, 2012, 11:17 GMT

    Yes if South Africa are to be No 1 they need to make A de Villiers captain. Smith is way to conservative and slow . With the firepower in his team they should have been top for years now. The Indians have IPL but not much else going for them, though Kohli should end up a great player.Pakistan have always had great players but rarely a great team. Oz do not have potentially great emerging batsmen but plenty of good pace bowlers. Still Englands Anderson with Steyn are the best two quicks in the game and England also have Swann, as good as any spinner around and are still the best team as the rankings show.

  • POSTED BY smalishah84 on | April 8, 2012, 11:09 GMT

    pretty good article and I also agree that this competition is good for the game. The top spot is up for grabs and that is good news.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 10:35 GMT

    A lot of people are quick to point out that India are only good in home conditions. The same can be said about Englad. Sure they can win in Aus against an Aus side that is re-building. But come to Asia and we saw what they were like. One of the main reasons they drew with Sri Lanka is because they were more prepared to the conditions than the Sri Lankan team was. England were off 2 warm up games (where Chamara Silva didn't find any threats with their so called attack). Whereas, Sri Lanka is on the back of being in SA, then Aussie for months and then that asia cup and straight into test mode. So naturally all their batters except Mahela looked at sea. Had the selectors given Dilshan and Sanga a break SL would have done better.

  • POSTED BY shillingsworth on | April 8, 2012, 10:17 GMT

    @rawcrickettalent - it's not bizarre at all. Most of Pakistan's recent tests have been against lower ranked sides. They gained only marginally by beating Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and New Zealand and lost points by drawing with West Indies. @rahulcricket2007 - the number of matches played is reflected in the calculation of the ranking points. Try reading the ICC website before making ill informed criticism. http://static.icc-cricket.yahoo.net/ugc/documents/DOC_316C4ECFB1FDC31284D768163CA1CBCD_1295335858633_724.pdf

  • POSTED BY Bollo on | April 8, 2012, 10:08 GMT

    @MandarSathe - India were No.1 for about 20 months - Dec 2009-Aug 2011, hardly the `good 3 years ` you suggest, and how you imagine they `are still on top` after their appalling performances over the past 2 years is beyond me.

  • POSTED BY Leggie on | April 8, 2012, 9:22 GMT

    Strongly disagree that Indians were a "team" built for home conditions. This is especially an unfair comment on the batting lineup and the fast bowlers. Two bad series in England and Australia should not take anything away from the likes of Sachin, Laxman and Dravid and to some extent Sehwag. They've had their ups even under fast swinging conditions and their records speak for itself. Same with zaheer the main strike bowler in any condition. In my opinion, India could not cling on to number 1, because of a. Age seems to have finally caught up with the batting stars and no replacement for Ganguly. b. no replacement yet for Kumble and c. Team management that includes the coach that seems paranoid making ANY change to team composition on tours. It's disappointing that time and again India's rise to number being one being questioned. India was genuinely a number one side. With ageing/retired stars, its time to rebuild. But let's not take anything away from their past achievements.

  • POSTED BY vrn59 on | April 8, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    @rahulcricket007: You make a good point about Pakistan. However, they will need to strengthen their batting to be in contention for the top spot. Apart from Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan and to a lesser extent, Misbah ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq, Pakistan lack quality batsmen. They also need to find a wicketkeeper who can bat a bit. As for the bowling, their spin department is amongst the strongest in the world right now. However, they need a more potent pace bowling attack. Umar Gul is a great bowler, but he needs a stable and consistent new-ball partner and also, a first-change seamer (which Pakistan will need when they tour Australia, England and South Africa).

  • POSTED BY MandarSathe on | April 8, 2012, 8:48 GMT

    India were no.1 for good 3 years..... Chappel seems to undermine their dominance for last 3-4 years.... yes India has come down the greasy pole..but they are still on top.... n we shall find it when Eng n Aus come to India..that India is still better than Eng n Aus....

  • POSTED BY rawcrickettalent on | April 8, 2012, 8:37 GMT

    @rahulcricket007....completely agree with you.... i think the rankings are bizzare...how could england remain no:1 after being trashed about by Pakistan??? and how can Pakistan still be no:5 after remaining undefeated in 6 test series on the trott ???? bizzare isn't it??

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 8:15 GMT

    @Rafnas you make me laugh. Australia is more 'pathetic' side than India, and India toured England and Australia at a bad time. Saying all this after failing to win a single game in England and winning only 3 ODI, and only one of them against host Aus over a stretch of 3 months? Amount of self-righteousness in some of the Indian fans is just amazing. And yeah that point about India touring abroad at a bad time. Well it wasn't as if Indian players were made to wake up in the middle of the night and thrown on planes. They had well over half a decade of a period to prepare and plan, a task in which they certainly failed. Very shoddy administration is one of the most important reason why India failed to cling on the no.1 ranking.

  • POSTED BY 07sanjeewakaru on | April 8, 2012, 8:00 GMT

    As usual Ian is spot on.England bowling line is doing things in the subcontinent once they can't even dream off.Anderson,Broad,Bresnen good in the alien conditions they have 2 good spinners Swann and Monty.But batting is the thing they let down.If not this would be a different story.They missed the chance to put up a statement.But, I think they are still the best team.

  • POSTED BY rahulcricket007 on | April 8, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    WHAT ABOUT PAKISTAN ? THEY PLAY MUCH LESSER AMOUNT OF MATCHES THAN IND , ENG, AUS .ALSO THEY PLAY ALL THEIR MATCHES AWAY FROM HOME . THEY CAN BE NO. 1 IF THEY GET AS MANY MATCHES AS IND , ENG GOT .

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 7:41 GMT

    @rafnas..u can also say that australia toured india past 2 times at a very bad time and still dint manage to get 4-0 both times.....while india had its best team of recent times and yet achieved what it took aus team in 2 tours( 4-0 vs 2-0 2-0) get out of ur narrow mindset and start appreciating reality.

  • POSTED BY Harry_Kool on | April 8, 2012, 7:29 GMT

    @Rafnas. Perhaps when you do great service for your country at the elite level and contribute sound logical thought process, your opinion might be worth something. And perhaps, just once, you look further afield and read all his articles, where he has been blunt with Australian cricket probably moreso than any other country. BTW, when you are #1, there are no bad times to tour, you either are good enough or you're not. The Indian side were a shambolic disgrace in Australia against a transitioning team, and no better against a clearly superior England.

  • POSTED BY BillyCC on | April 8, 2012, 6:53 GMT

    I think South Africa with Philander should claim the number one ranking for at least a few years; there is no excuse, what with their batting lineup and Kallis still as a viable all rounder and Tahir as the spinner. Australia will need a few years for Pattinson and Cummins to truly develop and then they can challenge. England and India will need to make some tough choices and reinvent their batting lineups if they want to remain in the hunt in the next few years.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 6:33 GMT

    A super article. I agree with it completely. What do you think about my 11 for india in the near future?

    1 Ajinkya Rahane 2 Gautam Gambhir 3 Cheteshwar Pujara 4 Virat Kohli 5 Rohit Sharma 6 Suresh Rain a 7 M S Dhoni 8 Ravichandran Ashwin 9 Ishant Sharma 10 Umesh Yadav 11 Pragyan Ojha/ Varun Aaron (Depending on the conditions)

  • POSTED BY HawK89 on | April 8, 2012, 5:23 GMT

    Well said. All it takes these days is 1 bad session in a test match and the game swings the other way. Australia is the only side in Test, that when nothing is happening, they still look dangerous. While other teams, they look like they don't want to be out there anymore. England and South Africa have captains that tend to miss opportunities now and then, with debatable field settings and bowling changes. Either way, this makes Test Matches more interesting for each session.

  • POSTED BY raisagha on | April 8, 2012, 5:22 GMT

    Ian had predicted this situation quite a few months back. And situation is not much changed till now. Only a day of good cricket and results can go either way. But this is really good for cricket overall. We may find some good tough cricket and may find some new emerging stars like Kohli. With stalwarts Like Tendulkar and Kallis going away, we are waiting for new stars. One or two classy bowlers in Sri Lankan side and one or two classy batsmen in Pakistan side will make situation even tougher. Can anybody like Whatmore / Miandad / Ramiz help Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi to really groom.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    You have summed up the entire scenario pretty well. The key thing about the team's has been captaincy. While the teams have had transition in terms of resources with the bat or ball, the captaincy has been found wanting. While it is good for the fan to have no.1 spot switched often, but for the game itself it is imperative that we have one side dominate and others playing catch-up.

    Another reason for teams going down the hill after reaching the summit is probably a sense of satisfaction. The intensity has been found wanting, skills not sharp enough and lack of ideas to overcome unfamiliar terrains. England in 2005, India in 2003-04, South Africa in the last decade in the subcontinent had the hunger to do well in away conditions, they had the answers to posed questions, inspite of lack of skills they had the zest to counter.

    Looks like the next phase of test cricket is about home bullies and lame tourists, which doesn't advert well for test cricket.

  • POSTED BY Nadeem1976 on | April 8, 2012, 4:52 GMT

    I like today's test rankings because they are more real and competitive not like boring dictatorship of WI and AUS for 25 years. There should always be top 4 teams contesting for #1 spot. It makes test cricket more interesting. For england last test match win was extremely important and they retained #1 spot. It's great for test cricket.

    By the way a very good article by Ian. I like when he writes about cricket generally.

  • POSTED BY Hoggy_1989 on | April 8, 2012, 4:48 GMT

    Sure, Ponting's imminent departure is a fairly obvious one...but I think Hussey could hang around for a bit longer than everyone expects, assuming he maintains his fitness and doesn't break down or get long standing injuries (i.e. Clarke's back/hamstring problems). Other than that I agree with everything Chappelli is saying here.

  • POSTED BY raza_87 on | April 8, 2012, 4:46 GMT

    One major point has been missed in this article about Opening batting. Westindies and Australia had the luxury of great opening pair not only in bowling but also in batting that is what lacked for England and India(specially out of sub-continent).

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  • POSTED BY raza_87 on | April 8, 2012, 4:46 GMT

    One major point has been missed in this article about Opening batting. Westindies and Australia had the luxury of great opening pair not only in bowling but also in batting that is what lacked for England and India(specially out of sub-continent).

  • POSTED BY Hoggy_1989 on | April 8, 2012, 4:48 GMT

    Sure, Ponting's imminent departure is a fairly obvious one...but I think Hussey could hang around for a bit longer than everyone expects, assuming he maintains his fitness and doesn't break down or get long standing injuries (i.e. Clarke's back/hamstring problems). Other than that I agree with everything Chappelli is saying here.

  • POSTED BY Nadeem1976 on | April 8, 2012, 4:52 GMT

    I like today's test rankings because they are more real and competitive not like boring dictatorship of WI and AUS for 25 years. There should always be top 4 teams contesting for #1 spot. It makes test cricket more interesting. For england last test match win was extremely important and they retained #1 spot. It's great for test cricket.

    By the way a very good article by Ian. I like when he writes about cricket generally.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 5:08 GMT

    You have summed up the entire scenario pretty well. The key thing about the team's has been captaincy. While the teams have had transition in terms of resources with the bat or ball, the captaincy has been found wanting. While it is good for the fan to have no.1 spot switched often, but for the game itself it is imperative that we have one side dominate and others playing catch-up.

    Another reason for teams going down the hill after reaching the summit is probably a sense of satisfaction. The intensity has been found wanting, skills not sharp enough and lack of ideas to overcome unfamiliar terrains. England in 2005, India in 2003-04, South Africa in the last decade in the subcontinent had the hunger to do well in away conditions, they had the answers to posed questions, inspite of lack of skills they had the zest to counter.

    Looks like the next phase of test cricket is about home bullies and lame tourists, which doesn't advert well for test cricket.

  • POSTED BY raisagha on | April 8, 2012, 5:22 GMT

    Ian had predicted this situation quite a few months back. And situation is not much changed till now. Only a day of good cricket and results can go either way. But this is really good for cricket overall. We may find some good tough cricket and may find some new emerging stars like Kohli. With stalwarts Like Tendulkar and Kallis going away, we are waiting for new stars. One or two classy bowlers in Sri Lankan side and one or two classy batsmen in Pakistan side will make situation even tougher. Can anybody like Whatmore / Miandad / Ramiz help Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi to really groom.

  • POSTED BY HawK89 on | April 8, 2012, 5:23 GMT

    Well said. All it takes these days is 1 bad session in a test match and the game swings the other way. Australia is the only side in Test, that when nothing is happening, they still look dangerous. While other teams, they look like they don't want to be out there anymore. England and South Africa have captains that tend to miss opportunities now and then, with debatable field settings and bowling changes. Either way, this makes Test Matches more interesting for each session.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 6:33 GMT

    A super article. I agree with it completely. What do you think about my 11 for india in the near future?

    1 Ajinkya Rahane 2 Gautam Gambhir 3 Cheteshwar Pujara 4 Virat Kohli 5 Rohit Sharma 6 Suresh Rain a 7 M S Dhoni 8 Ravichandran Ashwin 9 Ishant Sharma 10 Umesh Yadav 11 Pragyan Ojha/ Varun Aaron (Depending on the conditions)

  • POSTED BY BillyCC on | April 8, 2012, 6:53 GMT

    I think South Africa with Philander should claim the number one ranking for at least a few years; there is no excuse, what with their batting lineup and Kallis still as a viable all rounder and Tahir as the spinner. Australia will need a few years for Pattinson and Cummins to truly develop and then they can challenge. England and India will need to make some tough choices and reinvent their batting lineups if they want to remain in the hunt in the next few years.

  • POSTED BY Harry_Kool on | April 8, 2012, 7:29 GMT

    @Rafnas. Perhaps when you do great service for your country at the elite level and contribute sound logical thought process, your opinion might be worth something. And perhaps, just once, you look further afield and read all his articles, where he has been blunt with Australian cricket probably moreso than any other country. BTW, when you are #1, there are no bad times to tour, you either are good enough or you're not. The Indian side were a shambolic disgrace in Australia against a transitioning team, and no better against a clearly superior England.

  • POSTED BY on | April 8, 2012, 7:41 GMT

    @rafnas..u can also say that australia toured india past 2 times at a very bad time and still dint manage to get 4-0 both times.....while india had its best team of recent times and yet achieved what it took aus team in 2 tours( 4-0 vs 2-0 2-0) get out of ur narrow mindset and start appreciating reality.