Decide the ICC Test Championship by straight ladder
South Africa's Jacques Kallis, left, is caught out for 46 runs by Australia's Ed Cowan. AP Photo/Rick Rycroft
To become the ICC Test champs, a team has to top the ICC Test rankings. Sounds easy, right?
If we have a look at the ICC rankings website, which ranks the best Test team in the world, we see the table that has the name of the teams, the matches they play and a rating calculated by a complex mathematical formula.
Whoever tops the ratings get the trophy for being the best Test nation in the world.
I don’t believe this is a best way of determining who the best team in the world is. When the average cricket fans look at the rankings, what do the points and rating mean?
There’s a disconnection between the results of the Test match being played and the table to determine who is the best team in the world.
For the competition to have legitimacy it has to be decided either by a tournament (such as the ODI World Cup) or an alternative, for which my suggestion is a ladder.
Go through the last series played between the two nations (both home and away). Award two points for a series win and one point for a draw. Set it up as a ladder with a series win, loss and draw column.
This is simple to understand, has a direct connection to the results of the series and is a fairer way to determine the results.
People may point out this is similar to what the ICC had in the past, before they changed it to the rating system.
This led to a situation where South Africa were the number one team in the world when Australia dominated cricket (after beating them 3-0 home and away), which led to the mocking of the system.
However in this situation Australia had yet to play a home and away series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh which counted in the rating system. A victory over those sides would have elevated Australia to number one.
Nowadays where everyone has played each other home and away (except for Bangladesh versus India in India), this is less of an issue.
So using the results of the last series played against each other, this is the table:
Teams Series Played Wins Draws Losses Points
South Africa 18 12 5 1 29
England 18 12 3 3 27
Australia 18 11 3 4 25
India 17 10 3 4 23
Pakistan 18 9 3 6 21
Sri Lanka 18 6 6 6 18
West Indies 18 5 4 9 14
New Zealand 18 4 4 10 12
Zimbabwe 18 2 1 15 5
Bangladesh 17 2 0 15 4
This is pretty similar to the current ICC world rankings but with India swapped with Pakistan, and Zimbabwe missing from the ranking (not enough games in the last three years).
However even if the ranking is only marginally different in terms of the results, the key difference is the way the ranking is presented. It is now easy to understand instead of based on a points system calculated by a formula that isn’t easy to understand.
Australia’s next series is against India in India and we will all know Australia is trying to gain two points, while India are trying to defend their two points. The only way we know how this affects the ranking is by using a calculator on the ICC website.
The main issue some people have against this system are that there is no time frame for the last results being counted to the ranking.
Due to Zimbabwe’s isolation from Test cricket between 2004-2011, some of the results used were from decades ago.
Australia’s away victory over Zimbabwe came in 1999. Zimbabwe’s away victory over Pakistan in 1998 and home draw over England in 1996 (the oldest series used in the ranking) can be argued to inflate Zimbabwe’s already low ranking in this system.
My response is that sport isn’t about saying one team is better than another on paper. You must demonstrating it by winning the match on the day.
England has to prove they can beat Zimbabwe away from home, India has to prove they can beat Bangladesh at home, which they haven’t proven despite having the talent to do that.
This will ensure that the Test Championship will be decided by a proper table which is well established and used in many sports, instead of a complex mathematical formula.