Get your Act together ICC

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Explaining the ICC Ranking Saga

ICC Rankings

ICC Rankings

This week the retirement of Matthew Hayden with him subsequently being named the 10th greatest test batsman of all time in the ICC rankings caused a huge stir in India and the rest of the cricketing world.

Whilst it cannot be refuted that Matthew Hayden was a true great of the game — as 8,625 runs at an average of 50.72 in 103 Tests would suggest — the rankings had several remarkable lopsided results. The most significant glaring anomaly being the leading run scorer of all time,Sachin Tendulkar at no.26, a massive 16 places behind Matty Hayden.

Remember not only is Tendulkar the leading runs scorer in test cricket but also the man with the most centuries (41 to date). And that’s without even mentioning his “God Status” in the  country where cricket is without a doubt the most followed religion.

The huge discrepancies and falsehoods don’t stop there. . .

“Tendulkar has scored the most number of runs and most number of centuries in Tests, while Gavaskar was the first batsman ever to make 10,000 runs in Test cricket. And, while Lara holds the world record for the highest individual Test match innings, Waugh and Border both did yeoman service for Australia with the bat in Test cricket. While there is no disputing the fact that the likes of Sangakkara, Hobbs, Ponting, Len Hutton, Graeme Pollock, Hayden and Doug Walters were all good batsmen, placing them above legends like Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Lara, Border and Headley is certainly hard to digest!”  Akshay Iyer told MSN Cricket and Sports.

The number of runs a batsman has scored seems to have very little correlation to their ranking on the all time list. Current players find themselves in lofty positions way above true greats of the game. Kumar Sangakarra finds himself in joint 6th place ahead of the likes of Tendulkar, Gavaskar, Waugh, Border, Lara. At the moment Sachin Tendulkar stood alone at the top of world cricket ahead of Brian Lara in October 2008 surpassing the great Brian Charles Lara the leading test run scorers looked as follows. However their ICC “greatness rankings” with the exception of Ricky Ponting are extremely modest.

ICC oddities

ICC oddities

Should the ICC be promoting such a bizarrely shaped and adventurous ranking system to decide on which cricketers are better from different times and generations? Should I take this seriously?

Lets take a look at the ICC’s greatest test batsman of all time list – Top 30:

ICC 30 Greatest Ever Test Batsmen

ICC 30 Greatest Ever Test Batsmen

To see the full top 100 list click here.

In the ICC’s Defence

In this situation the ICC’s defence lawyer would be finding evidence to support them very thin on the ground. To take the opportunity of Matthew Hayden’s retirement to promote such a list of all time great crickets on the face of it is a very clever marketing ploy. To raise the ICC’s profile and get us all thinking that it is the authority on all matters cricket is smart. However, the fact that the list is so ludicrously worked out and so out of sync from what it is titled detracts everything away from their feeble efforts.

They did try and rectify the situation somewhat . . .

‘‘The rankings give an indication of how players peaked during their careers but do not give a full picture of those players’ level of consistency or longevity in the game.’’ an ICC statement

“The top ten of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings are a excellent measure of which players are in the greatest current run of form. However, a true test of sustained excellence can be estimated from the number of matches each player has spent at the top of the tree.

It could be argued that this might favour current players as there are more international matches played nowadays than there were in the past.”  a sort of disclaimer on the ICC’s website.

As you can see from the top 30 greatest list above the ICC ranks the players in its all-time list based on their highest ratings points. This is a good system when you are trying to decide the best batsmen in the world on current form (Chanderpaul is currently top).

Considering the all time picture on the same basis is inherently flawed. Case in point is Michael Vaughan. He finds himself in overall 39th spot thanks to a prolific summer and Ashes series in 2003 when he almost single-handedly took on the Aussies. However his overall test average is a mere 41 – a mark of excellence but not greatness. Had he smashed more runs that summer he could have found himself in an even more flattering position.

When all-time greats are being talked about, factors like the number of runs scored, milestones, centuries and half-centuries scored as well as the situation in which the runs were scored, have to be included in the mix. The ratings points are but an indication of a player’s performance over time and can’t be the overriding criterion for deciding the cricket’s all-time greatest Test batsmen.

If the ICC followed the above criteria, then there is no doubt that Tendulkar would take his rightful place behind Bradman as the second-best Test batsman of all time. This would also see Gavaskar, Headley, Lara, Dravid, Border and Steve Waugh feature higher in the rankings, as is their right for being consistent and outstanding performers through their careers.

The ICC does a very good job on the current ICC rankings both in terms of countries positioning on the ICC ladder and also the individual cricketers featuring on ODI and tests lists. Hanging on to top spot meant an awful lot to the Aussies in the final test against South Africa.  But its feeble efforts to classify the all-time greats are going to cause a lot of trouble to its reputation if they continue to be so sloppy. Cricket’s governing body has to find a balanced and reasonable system to come up with such lists in the future. This whole saga has turned them into somewhat of a laughing stock with even the tiniest of cricket fans able to realise the results are laughable. Get your act together ICC!

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