ICC Test rankings reflect India's status
Jamie Alter Cricketnext
03rd June 2012 04:26 PM
For the first time in what seems like ages, there is not one Indian player in the top 10 of ICC's Test rankings for batsmen and bowlers. It is an indictment of the way the Indian Test team has fared over the past 12 months - eight consecutive overseas defeats - four by an innings - sandwiched between wins over lowly West Indies home and away. That is three Test wins out of 14 Test matches played since June 2011, amounting to India losing their No. 1 status and slipping to fourth on the ICC table.
Sachin Tendulkar is the highest ranked Indian batsmen at 12th spot, joint with young Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali. In the bowling list, pacer Zaheer Khan is the highest-ranked Indian in the list at the 12th spot. How did it come to this?
Over the past decade it was common to see Indian batsman fill the top ten ICC rankings - especially the batsmen. Rahul Dravid had a long stay at the top of the ICC Test rankings with a highest rating of 892 points in March 2005, and spent 35 Tests and 226 days as the No. 1 batsman. In 2010, Tendulkar reclaimed the No. spot after eight years - and the ninth time overall in his legendary career - following a successful series in a 2-0 sweep of Australia. He then lost it to Jacques Kallis when he opted out of the tour to West Indies in 2011 and his steady decline since then has resulted in his current ranking.
Earlier in 2010, Virender Sehwag took the top spot after hitting successive centuries against South Africa. Before him, it was his opening partner Gautam Gambhir who enjoyed a run at the top of the ICC Test rankings, even being named the ICC Test Player of the Year for 2009. VVS Laxman has also been in and out of the top ten over the years.
Over the past 12 months, the most successful Indian batsman is the now-retired Dravid with 1225 runs at an average of 51.04. Dravid was the stand-out Indian batsman in the disastrous tour of England last summer, and against West Indies home and away he also scored a lot of runs. Behind Dravid in second place is Laxman - another fading veteran - with 878 runs at 36.58. Tendulkar's 778 runs at 37.04 put him at third place, followed by MS Dhoni (584 at 27.80), Virat Kohli (491 at 32.73), Sehwag (484 at 28.47) and Gambhir (478 at 25.15).
The bowling list makes for even poorer reading. Over the past 12 months, Ishant Sharma's 43 wickets are the best by and Indian bowler but each has come at a cost of 41.83 runs. Ishant has played the most Tests (14) by an Indian bowler and his strike-rate of 74.20 is only poorer than the almost forgotten Harbhajan Singh (89.80) for bowlers who played more than five Tests since June 2011. Harbhajan, in six Tests over the past 12 months, has taken just 13 wickets. His replacement as India's leading spinner, R Ashwin, is the second-highest wicket-taker for India with 31 at 34.48 - but when you consider that 22 of those came in his first three Tests - all at home against West Indies - the numbers are rather revealing.
Praveen Kumar's six Tests resulted in 27 wickets at an impressive average of 25.81, but he has not played since the tour of England and looks to remain sidelined from the Test set-up. Umesh Yadav is fourth with 23 wickets from as many matches, Pragyan Ojha has 20 from three Tests against West Indies in India, and Zaheer comes in at fifth with 17 scalps from five Tests. Through these 14 Tests over the past year, India's bowling attack has looked incapable of claiming the 20 wickets required to win a Test match - unless the game was being played at home.
The past year has possibly been one of the worst for a Test country, and the BCCI and the players have much to do if they hope to recover from the ruins of eight successive Test defeats and aspire to becoming a top team again. India have a busy Test scheduled lined up, with New Zealand due to tour for two Test matches in August and September, England to play four Tests in November-December, followed by a four-Test series against Australia.
In that regard, the current India A tour of the West Indies is an important one. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary need big returns in the Caribbean to push their claims for Test spots. Of the four, it almost certain that two will be picked to play New Zealand in August. With Laxman's future also uncertain - will he be dropped, and does he think his place in the XI is guaranteed? - a third will be in the reckoning in the not so distant future.
Depressing though it may be, it is also an engaging time to be following Indian cricket. Success over New Zealand, England and Australia at home in the next seven months will be a big boost, but until the team starts winning consistently overseas.
Gambhir, in a recent interview, was candid in his assessment of how India need to focus on Test cricket. "We need to concentrate on Test cricket, we need to give importance to it and it has to start from the media as well. We need to start talking about Test cricket more than 50-over or Twenty20 cricket," he said. "Test cricket is the most important format of the game and it your Test side is settled and doing well then I think a lot of other things can be taken care of. Let's stop talking a lot about one-day and Twenty20 cricket; Test cricket is what everyone should promote."
Strong words, but is anyone listening?
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