Who’s the big daddy?

As the 2nd test beings at Trent Bridge, the English media starts it annual dancing and prancing routine about the myth that their team is about to dethrone the incumbent team, ruling the roost. They do this once every few years when any major series is to begin, moreso because the Pommies are one of the better sides in the current mix. But it also begs the question, whether there is a clearly identifiable no. 1 team in world cricket today?

Before we get into any academic discussions, let me point out that I’m going to ramble around as a pure lover of the game rather than a Mohandas Menon who can throw up 20,000 different stats at you. Feel free to disagree in the comments section or add your own views. Secondly, I’ve also marginalized ODIs and T20s out of the debate, because of the reasons mentioned below. Once these disclaimers are flushed down the drain, we’ll dive straight into the bravery red and white of test cricket!

ODIs:- As far as the 50 over game is concerned, the no. 1 tag sits very lightly on any team’s shoulders. It’s always the last edition’s world cup winners (in the current scenario India), who are anointed the kings of the game even though they might be languishing at the no. 2 or 3 spot. For two years, a country can be rest assured to keeping milking on the world champions title, before the next edition’s shenanigans start honking again. Then the circus re-starts trying to relegate some teams to the top dogs category and a couple others thrown in as underdogs. (usually Pakistan & New Zealand)

T20s:- The baby of all formats is too new for us to form explicit opinions but one thing is certain, where prediction or picking up a team as numero uno is concerned, it’s virtually impossible because one Chris Gayle or Ross Taylor can turn the game over it’s head in a matter of minutes, irrespective of the situation, timing and competition. How many of you think that the Englishmen are actually no. 1 in this format, despite the fact that they won the last T20 championship in 2010? I guess, not many. And here we also have to take into account the further bastardization of the game with the invent of the IPL…If you hand over the top rank to any team in T20 school of cricket, it has to be Chennai Super Kings instead of any country, just on the basis of their unparalleled consistency in the infinitesimally small history of this format.

TESTS:

Now we move onto the big daddy – the purists and cricketers’ first love. 5 days of unadulterated display of skill, stamina and perseverance. As a spectator sport, this must be probably the most unique and at times a boring experience, because it’s akin to watching a chess match spread over, say 40 hours without the promise of a result in the end. But from purely the game’s point of view, this actually brings out the best as well as the worst out of a team. Unlike the shorter versions of the game, here even if 2 or 3 players are not upto caliber, their shortcomings are woefully extracted over a sub-period of any of the 5 days. It is indeed a real ‘TEST’ for each of the 11 players.

India (2009- ????):

Precisely the reason that amongst the current lot, not a single team can lay claim to the throne. Each team has substantial level of weaknesses which get accentuated on varied surfaces and conditions. Well, one can argue saying that since it’s a relative ranking, anyone who plays better will be at the top. But I would rather hang onto the notion that no. 1  is a team which is invincible, and the one for which even competition accepts this fact, albeit grudgingly.

Which brings us to the current champions. India’s unevenness in bowling vs batting is well known and only gets exacerbated when you have a mainstay like Zaheer Khan hobbling away within the 1st session of a match…Even Harbhajan hasn’t lived upto the expectations, created once Anil Kumble handed over the sole spinner baton to him. A billion population country unable to produce even 4 world-class bowlers is a conundrum unsolved for decades now. Likewise, the other top teams like South Africa, England, Sri Lanka and Australia have their own set of problems. These 5 teams wouldn’t be able to stamp out a complete authority unlike their 2 predecessors who ruled the roost for 25+ long years!
Australia (1996-2009):

Compare this to the erstwhile Australian team which kept the no. 1 tag to themselves for 6 unbroken years, right from the time the rankings were modified and re-established in 2003…The balance which the Waugh brothers, Mcgrath-Warne, Gilchrist, and company provided was unmatchable and that’s what made them deadly across both formats. And they were actually champions even before the rankings were initiatied and can be said to have ruled the roost for more than a decade – starting around their ODI world cup final loss to Lanka in 1996. This they managed with the help of a fantastic work ethic, discipline and grass-roots program which ensured that well trained cricketers were thrown off the assembly line like a regimented army. Yes, talent also was a significant aspect, but they are the ones who actually converted the art of cricket into a studied and perfected science…The only artistic expression they vented out were the verbal sledgehammers dished out to rest of the world, on the field.

Windies (1975-1990):

That leaves us with the baap of all teams – the Brazilians of cricket. The purely skilled samba dancers which would have been fun to watch in today’s day and age. Some of you might argue that the mighty Windies played in an era when there were only 5 or 6 test playing nations and had substantial threat only from the Aussies or at times from the Englishmen…But let’s not break the romantic notion of a team which pulverized everything into submission for 15 long years! Even today the names of Lloyd, Richards, Holding, Roberts inspires awe in fans and cricketers alike. Their brand of cricket was one of pure skill. Fearless in their approach, most of them were poetry and blood in motion. If one visual can capture their aggression and attitude was the way Emperor Richards would swagger onto the field chewing gum and hitting rockets out of the ground.

Await one day, when India can beg, borrow or steal some quickies from across the border who can set the field on fire and match the intensity which only our batsmen have so far provided. Sometimes, I also dread the day when Sachin, Rahul and Laxman will hang their boots who currently not many youngsters seem capable of wearing!


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