Once we were champions

I have some comments to make on the Sydney Test match but I’ll do that another time soon.

Australia’s loss to England in the 5th Test in Sydney coincided with South Africa taking top rung on the ICC Test Championship ladder.

Having just read an article in the SMH covering the subject, I thought I’d make some comments as the journalist who wrote the article didn’t seem to really understand how it works. Comments such as “Under the vagaries of the championship ladder, South Africa took first place for the first time…” are not accurate. There are no vagaries – it is a simple, mathematical system. Of course, there are short comings in using a mathematic formula to determine the best cricket team in the world – in many ways this is still a subjective topic. However, to have an official number one, as in tennis or golf, mathematics must replace subjectivity.

The system works as follows:

Each team is awarded points for each Test series (minimum two matches) it plays. Two points for a series win, one point for a draw and zero for a loss. The margin of a series win is not taken into account.

The most recent series played against each country, home and away, is included in the points total for each country. South Africa improved it’s rating because it only drew the previous home series with Pakistan. On the other hand, Australia beat England four years ago, so its rating was stable.

There are 10 Test playing nations which means that there can be a maximum of 18 series results included. Because not all countries have played the same amount of series, the points total is divided by the number of series played. The result is the points rating and that determines each team’s place on the ladder. The maximum rating which can be achieved is 2.00 (which is pretty obvious when you think about it).

If you want to check out the ladder for yourself, here is a link:

http://www-aus.cricket.org/link_to_database/ARCHIVE/ICCTC/
Why Australia is not on top of the ladder, even though it most likely is the best team in the world (we did, after all, soundly beat South Africa home and away in the past 12 months) and how we will return to the top:

1. Australia has played only 13 of the possible 18 series. South Africa and NZ (3rd on the ladder) have played 17 series. Of course, this is addressed by dividing the total points by series played BUT the shortfall in the Aussie series count are “easy beats”. Sorry Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (on Aussie pitches) but you are easy beats. Australia is missing home series against those three teams, as well as away series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Barring bad weather, this would represent an almost certain 10 from 10 points and the lead on the table. The ACB can improve our standing by scheduling the required series.

2. Australia has played (and won) a home series against Sri Lanka but it is not included in the calculations. When the system was introduced in 2001, there was a five year cut-off where series played outside of that were not included. The Sri Lanka series fell just outside of the 5 year period. From now on, once a series is played, the result is included until another series is played.

3. The cancelled tour to Zimbabwe cost 2 points which would almost have been enough to keep us above South Africa – but not quite.

4. The drawn series against NZ last summer cost us the lead. We need just one more point (from the current 13 series) to achieved the lead. Australia would almost certainly have won the first two Tests, and the series, had rain not intervened. Some say that Australia could have lost that series but they forget that Australia nearly lost the first match only after making a very sporting declaration.

5. Australia are playing the West Indies in the West Indies in a few months time. The last result for that series was a draw (2-2). If Australia wins that series, they will return to the top of the table.

The final point is an interesting one – Steve Waugh said yesterday that he might play on if there was a challenge involved. I wouldn’t mind betting that retiring, having returned the team to the top of the ICC Test Championship ladder is quite an

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