A red herring is a clue which is intentionally or unintentionally misleading or distracting from the actual issue.
It was nice that England were ranked number one in the Test rankings for the past year. It resembles a positive step in the progression of cricket on these shores; who’d have seriously thought, during the dark 1990s and early part of the new millenium that we’d have a side capable of reaching number one? It really has been a fantastic period for English cricket.
However, it would be folly to suggest that the past year or two has heralded any period of English dominance, per se, over the rest of the world. In fact, you could say the same about the previous incumbents of the number one spot – India. A run of good results over a year or two period saw them rise to the top, only to come crashing down shortly after. Until they hold it for any significant period of time, it is impossible to state any difference about the current South African side, either. In fact, they could lose it immediately with a loss to Australia in their next series.
The rankings system isn’t ever going to be 100% accurate. For a start, teams play each other only once every 3 or so years, and even then it isn’t necessarily home and away. A team can fluctuate both in terms of personnel and performance drastically during that period. Occasionally you’ll get a side who will win home and away consistently over a longer period. The magnificent Windies or the ‘orrible Aussies were both scarily good examples of this. For the rest of the time, though, the rankings are nigh on redundant.
Not that this is a bad thing. For one, the reason that Test Cricket is such a gripping sport is the variety of factors which are involved in each game. Every contest is played out between two sides with a historical connection with one another in terms of previous results and series. There is a certain romance in a ‘tour’ environment which doesn’t exist in any other sports (rugby aside – the British Lions are the best example though it is pleasing that international sides seem to have rekindled the idea of tours too).
As an example, whether you are playing Australia at the SCG, Sri Lanka in Galle, or England at Old Trafford, the only constant is cricket – and all that matters is the result of that one game. The history between the two sides, both in terms of cricket and global relations, is at stake. The weather and pitch conditions make every Test Match unique, as well as of course the adaptability, talent and fortune of the players in both sides. That is why it is Test Cricket – and that is why any Test Cricket Championship is a completely unnecessary addition to this great game; it would render these historical contests redundant. Just like the ODI World Cup has to any individual ODI match and series, and the way that no-one will remember the result of any T20 game other than in a final. Let’s just leave Test cricket as it is, full of meaning and the pinnacle of the sport.
Oh, whilst we’re at it, let’s get rid of this peculiar mace thing, too.