Thursday, November 11, 2010

A unique time

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything too unusual about the current Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. Sachin Tendulkar is at the top followed just a point behind by Kumar Sangakkara. The old favourites of Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and VVS Laxman are also currently riding high in the batting charts.

However, at closer glance, one thing does stand out. There is not a single representative in the top ten from either England or Australia. The highest Englishman is relative newcomer Jonathan Trott, who is currently number 15 after just a year’s Test cricket. Next comes Kevin Pietersen at 23, who was a perennial fixture in the top ten for three years, peaking at number three. Pietersen leads a tight bunch of six England batsmen between positions 23 and 35 showing that there is relative strength in depth, despite the lack of a stand-out performer.

For Australia the trend is perhaps even more worrying. Their leading light is thirteenth-placed Michael Clarke, and even he has struggled of late, scoring only 35 runs in his four innings in the recent Test series in India. Ricky Ponting, who was in the world’s top ten for seven years is just behind him at number sixteen. But perhaps the biggest fall from grace has occurred to Miichael Hussey. After his 23rd Test his rating stood at 921 and he was looking down on the rest of the batting world. But his star has faded since then and his 31 subsequent Tests have brought him just three centuries and a decidedly ordinary average of 35.

So – putting it into perspective, especially with an Ashes series lurking just around the corner, how rare is this current situation? You have to go all the way back to October 1979 for a time when there was no Australian in the world’s top ten. Ever since then, a succession of batting greats, such as Greg Chappell, Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey have ensured an unbroken line of high-fliers. For interest’s sake, here are how the world’s top ten stood at that point in time:



Sunil Gavaskar (Ind)


Gundappa Viswanath (Ind)


Javed Miandad (Pak)


Viv Richards (WI)


Alvin Kallicharran (WI)


David Gower (Eng)


Gordon Greenidge (WI)


Zaheer Abbas (Pak)


Geoff Boycott (Eng)


Asif Iqbal (Pak)


You have to go down to number 16 to find the first Australians – Greg Chappell and Graham Yallop level on 632 points. However, England did have two representatives in the top ten.

But – in terms of no England or Australian batsmen in the top ten – it has never happened before. Ever since the very first Test Match was played in 1877 this current time is the first time that the oldest of Test enemies have been absent from the world’s top ten batsmen.

Fortunately, the cupboard isn’t quite so bare bowling-wise. England boast two bowlers in the top ten – Graeme Swann in second and James Anderson fourth, with Stuart Broad knocking on the door in eleventh place. The two Australian lefties – Mitchell Johnson (seventh) and Doug Bollinger (eighth) ensure that there will be some top ten representatives when the teams take to the field at the ‘Gabba next week.