Vantage point

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Newest Cricketing Trope

When people discuss cricket, there are always a few tropes and themes that get ruminated often. Questions that convey the impression of being smart, incisive, and counter-intuitive, allowing people who ask them, and answer them, to feel they are more intelligent than the average cricket fan.

The latest such trope is - Do we (India) really deserve to be #1 in tests? I mean REALLY, do we deserve it?

Predictable arguments are put forth. Our bowling is weak. We haven't beaten South Africa or Australia or even Sri Lanka in away series. The big three are close to retirement. Bla and bla bla.

This question would make sense if cricket rankings were decided based on subjective scores, like the BCS college football rankings in the US are. But they are not. ICC rankings are arrived on, based on objective facts, not opinion polls. They have been for years, even when Australia were #1 by a huge margin. And when South Africa took the throne for a short while. And then lost it a series later.

So India is #1 because, well, we are #1 according to the ICC ranking methodology. And to that extent, the question of whether we "deserve" to be #1 is moot, and frankly, quite silly.

The real underlying question seems to be - are we a dominant side that can beat most teams anywhere? No, we are not. But then, neither is any other team. Australia and Sri Lanka got their asses whipped in India. South Africa barely managed to draw with England at home, and could not shut us out in the recent series. In fact, apart from the West Indies in the 80s and the Australians in the early noughties, no team in the history of test cricket has been unquestionably dominant (Bradman's invincibles don't count, because they had only one serious opponent). And unless some team unearths 2-3 once-in-a-century type bowlers, such dominance looks very unlikely.

So yes, we deserve to be #1. And whoever takes the spot from us will deserve it when they do. And we will again, if we win it back. And so on and so forth.