Home > Cricket > Number one test team, Really?

Number one test team, Really?

Now this is a pretty controversial issue and die hard Indian Cricket fans might not agree with me. But the moot point is – Is the Indian cricket team really the number 1 test team in the world?

The ratings say so and so do the recent track record of WINS and LOSSES. But is it not just plain eyewash? A laugh in the face of those teams which keep touring different cricketing nations year round alternating between home conditions and hostile conditions? The ranking system is based on numbers, so to say and there can’t be much of subjectivity in it.  But I would like to use numbers again to prove the subjectivity existing in the current ranking system.

I would like to have a head to head comparison between the Indian and South African cricket teams.

The usual disclaimers – All stats are courtesy cricinfo.com. They are up to date as of 7th December 2010 and do not include data of any match played thereafter. The stats cover only the test matches and not the ODIs.

Let’s consider only the AWAY matches for both the teams. To have a bit of recency, we will have only the past 4 years record. The same could be done with the Aussies too. Remember they have been on a downward slide some time now according to most of us. Really? Well, they are not doing that bad when it comes to away matches. But let’s just limit ourselves to the Proteas.

Last 4 years –

South Africa

Won 11, lost 4 out of 21 matches….52% win rate and only 19% loss rate


Won 9 , Lost 7    out of 23 matches….39% win rate and 30% loss rate

Last 3 years

South Africa 52% win rate and 21% loss rate

India 40% win rate and 33% loss rate

Last 2 years

South Africa 50% win rate and 20% loss rate

India 50% win rate and 12.5% loss rate

The last 1 year, the record has been more or less the same for both teams, won 3 and lost a single match . While India drew a single match, South Africa drew 3

Now, the opposition or the venue

In the 11 wins, South Africa have beaten West Indies twice, Australia twice, England twice, India twice, Bangladesh twice and Pakistan once.

And India’s 9 wins have come thrice against Bangladesh, twice against the Lankans, once each against the Aussies, the Kiwis, the English and the South Africans.

Thus South Africans have won 5 times in the trying Sub continent conditions (considered hostile for them). Likewise India has won 4 times in non sub continent conditions (considered hostile for them). So far so good. But when did these results come about. How many countries outside the subcontinent has India toured of late? Just 1 New Zealand visit in early 2009. After that so many Bangladesh and Sri Lanka tours.

If India is considered the most difficult place for a touring side, then the South Africans have done that twice –winning in India – spread across two different series in 2008 and 2010 both times not allowing India to get away with a series win.

Another aspect that comes into play is getting accustomed to conditions. Indians just need to stay at home or play around the subcontinent. This way they get more and more accustomed to the dust bowls in the subcontinent whereas the SouthAfricans have to keep alternating between different types of conditions. Just for the record, Since Jan 2009, they have toured Australia, West Indies, India and the middle east (for Pakistan series) and have just had a single home series against the English.

Taking into account series wins…..

South Africa have won 5 away series in last 4 years NOT losing a single series  – One each in Bangadesh, Pakistan, Australia, West Indies and England and at the same time drawing twice against India and once against Pakistan.

India has won 4 away series in the last 4 years – twice against Bangladesh, one each in England and New Zealand. They lost against the Lankans, the South Africans and the Aussies, and narrowly drew the 2010 Tour of Sri Lanka.

A look into the future

With the highly rated middle order of the Indian batting lineup waiting to hang up their boots, India is not in a great position. Bowling has never been India’s forte and it has been the batsmen who have been saving India the blushes for some time now. Zaheer has been the backbone of the bowling line up but injuries have kept him in and out of the team. I am not sure for how long he will be continuing as a fast bowler has a limited shelf life. As far as Harbhajan is concerned, he has not been the match winner he was some years back.

Looking at South Africa, their main batsmen like Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith himself have a good number of years of cricket left in them. Only Herschelle Gibbs and Jacque Kallis are nearing retirement age and mind you, though they are great players, the team is not overly dependent on them. They have a battery of all rounders and so called bits and pieces players in Langevelt, Albie Morkel, van der Merwe etc. The spin department in the hands of Botha and Paul Harris has been looking promising.

So, according to me, if India is to prove its supremacy as the number one test team in the world it has to at least get away with a draw in the upcoming series in South Africa, which really speaking I am not very optimistic of. I am not sure what the numbers would say i.e. number of wins required to maintain the number 1 rank.  All we can do is wait and watch and as they say – LET THE BEST TEAM WIN.

  1. Nehal
    December 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    desh drohi….
    but again have to admit… good hand at the analysis 🙂

  2. Sanjay
    December 17, 2010 at 10:39 am

    dude, let the series play out…
    historically india have been horrible at the start of the series only to get better as it progressed..
    as for hostile conditions, lets not forget the last series in australia…
    its just south africa where we are yet to win a series…
    as for the upcoming retirements, i think pujara is an excellent prospect and can be the hashim amla for india. And i think its a gross misjudgement of Raina’s talent to include him in the test side in SA…i wish that dhoni wud select pujara instead…but somehow i get the feeling he gives his buddies a bit extra rope than they shud get..and raina is definitely one of his “buddies”.
    as for the bowling, i totally agree. our pace deptt is totally dependent on zaheer who has been almost as brittle as graeme smith over the past few series! and bhajji, well i dont know what to say abt him..all i see him do these days is bowl economical..i thought ashwin wud b a good prospect with his variations, but he disappointed me during the NZ ODI series, so not sure if hez that good a prospect in the longer formats of the game..perhaps like australian fans are demanding recall of warne, we shoudl demand recall of sunil joshi whos still bowling superbly for karnataka (just kidding). i wanna see how the “exciting” unadkat is in what should be helpful conditions, although a bit disappointed to see mithun who bowled his heart out in totally flat pitches in SL, didnt get a chance in better bowling conditions.
    btw, didn’t we just beat australia 2-0? hw cm u mention that we just beat australia once in last 4 years? u sure u got the stats right from cricinfo? 😛
    Nevertheless, the rankings have a system. People never questioned when australia were on top for so long, then why question now with India on top (at least in tests)? The rankings(since it follows a tennis ranking style) only considers the recent form of the teams and ergo, only uses the performance in recent series. it’s not india’s fault that they have been playin mostly in the subcontinent(maybe BCCI’s fault to some extent), but still getting results in india in non-bowler-friendly pitches shows a change in the mindset of the current indian team. more agression…hopefully it’ll augur well even in SA.
    supremely disappointed by y’days batting performance but still hoping for a good showing by the indian team. i only wish it had been 5 tests and not just 3.
    ps: sry for the extremely long post.

    • December 17, 2010 at 6:32 pm

      Apology for the long post accepted 😛 . first of all, lemme clarify, i have written this post more than a week back and not on the basis of this single innings. just that i posted on FB after viweing this innings. Another thing, i have been comparing the stats of only away matches. Not home matches.

      Baaki, Pujara k domestic performances acche rahe hain, and his 1 match against aussies was also good. But that just can’t warrant a comparison with Amla. Aur aise performances aane do.

      And wen aussies were at the top they used to beat almost anyone and everyone (i know India was not a successful destn for them but nevertheless they won the 2004 series)

  3. Rahul
    December 19, 2010 at 12:09 am

    … let me tell you that Australia toured to SA and SA lost at its home ground. One of the foremost condition to be called test team is that every team toured to every other test playing country in two years time period. Thats the sole reason you can see why SA declined to its winning rate and managed to draw away and still maintaining second. On the other hand India touring will start now for other two years. So test ahead. Other thing in the ranking is that India played extensively with Australia and that was the strongest team and declined recently after its fall from Sydney. I know india is not doing good in the first match but its not fair to touring team if you ask them to play without any practice match. I ask a simple question… Have you ever seen Equatorial countries are doing good in Winter Olympics… so the india or any other country. Even Aussies won india only once in the history of Steve Waugh and never in the history of Pointing as captain. Does that mean they were not champion team?

    • December 19, 2010 at 7:18 am

      first of all, Please point out to me which stat is wrong….i have clearly mentioned AWAY matches .

      And by the way, you yourself have have answered your query. ‘every team toured to every other test playing country in two years time period. ‘
      So if India has not toured much, then automatically it should not achieve number 1 status just by accumulating home points. If India touring will start for next two years, then should it not the point system be such that it becomes NUMBER 1 after attaining a decent level in AWAY matches tooo in those 2 years.

      As far as SA is concerned, if it lost at home, it also beat australia in autralia’s home ground which technically no one has done of late. Aussies won in 2003-04 series.
      And as i said why not wait for the results of these series before sayoing India is out of practice etc etc. they were in SA well in advance for a conditioning camp.

  4. Sanjay
    December 20, 2010 at 9:05 am

    what has SA done to lay a claim on the number 1 ranking?
    they have supposedly the best fast bowler in the world in their ranks, but what was he able to achieve on flat pitches in pakistan’s “home” tests?
    forget that, what was he able to achieve on the flat pitch at centurion in the 2nd innings? he needs uneven bounce(or moisture in the pitch/cloudy conditions) for getting wickets and he is the number 1 bowler?
    and what’s the talk about home conditions when a toss decides it all? that’s what they say about indian pitches right? “win the toss, win the match”…”bat first make a big score, win the match”.. “india are flat pitch bullies” all these are so-called excuses as to why india is such a hard place to win in. but still, against australia india batted second in both the matches and still won 2-0. can you say with confidence that had india bowled first in the current match, the result would have been similar? would morkel have been just as potent on the 2nd day batting pitch that centurion was?
    add to this the fact that india’s best bowler(by many a mile) wasn’t available.. i m looking forward to the 2nd test..let’s see how dominating SA are then in their home conditions.
    as for india’s away records, in australia, call it an excuse but the sydney test that australia “won” was total bullshit and in a fairer world would have changed the result of the series…
    in SA, india has shown some success every now and then..in 94 or was it 96( ok i know this is out of the period that u r considering but still im making a point over india’s overall performance outside home), daryll cullinan scored a century and then play was halted early and SA managed to draw. a total of 55 overs(give or take a few) were lost and just 2 wickets is what SA managed to draw with, and with that they drew the series.
    so its not that india has totally failed to win outside the subcontinent. its the overall consistency that matters.
    you should also take into account the fact that india is the only “champion” team which has managed to reach there on the shoulders of mainly its batsmen. historically, its been a supremely potent bowling attack coupled with somewhat reliable batsmen that have made a team the one everyone yearns to beat. give india some credit for this achievement!
    and lastly, even if SA manage to get to the number 1 spot in the next year, would it not raise the same question as they have a number of home tests lined up while india has a lot of away tests.
    to wrap it up, stop raising a question on the top rank holder. its the ranking system that has brought india there, and which previously had aussies holding that spot for a long time. the same ranking system. it works very similarly in tennis, and no1 questions it there. Then why the questions on india?

    PS: not gonna apologise for the length this time. in fact i retract my previous apology too. whats the point of apologising if i keep repeating the act, eh? anyways, you are to blame as you are the one who poked the hornet’s nest 😉 😛

  5. kavita yadav
    December 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    good yaar ur an analyst…….scorpion prooved!!!

  6. sanjay
    December 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    does a team so heavily dependent on toss and weather conditions deserve to be number 2 in world rankings?
    also, i was surprised that boucher(in 1st innings) and prince (in 2nd innings) made it so easy for India by not trying to farm the strike at all!

    Disclaimer: both comments above are high in sarcasm content. the author doesn’t really expect them to spawn a logical argument but just to prove a point. 😛

  7. January 5, 2011 at 11:38 am

    so what if they are not performing good right now this doesn’t means they can’t. they have the capability to be the No. 1 team in tests and so they are. I suppose you didn’t saw their performance at Durban in 2nd test.

    • January 5, 2011 at 11:47 am

      hehe, as of today that is 3rd test, i would not say they are not performing good. Its decent. I had written this piece much before 1st test yaar.

  8. January 30, 2011 at 12:17 am

    OK, i gotta accept. India’s a great TEST playing side, mebbe the number one also. And they got away with a series draw….

  1. January 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

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