Finally, the two biggest cricket playing nations in the world lock horns!
We’ll ignore the sizeable populations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. We’ll ignore the ICC rankings. We’ll ignore South Africa’s general dominance of both sides over the past five years. We’ll even ignore Australia.
After all, they might be 4th vs 5th in the world, and they might both be pretty dire; captained by two leaders impersonating Neville Chamberlain and Nero respectively, both sides lacking their All-Time-Great Number 4 batsman, together limping towards this contest with the false outward enthusiasm of someone who hasn’t trained for a marathon, racked by self doubt and wondering how it got to this.
Yet this is two of the self-proclaimed Big Three! This is the two biggest cricket playing nations in the entire universe – England and India! SO BUY TICKETS NOW – AVAILABLE AT EVERY VENUE, COURTESY OF THE ECB!
England whitewashed India just three years ago, by a total of two innings and 765 runs across just four Tests. It was a fairly wet summer, with rain interrupting all but the second Test, which was held at England’s (Anderson’s and Broad’s) favourite venue – Trent Bridge. England play better in the wet, apparently.
England also had a better team than India at the time, in terms of individuals. Both sides were better then, with a few exceptions, than they are now. India were number one! England overtook them!
England had the second best batsman in the world in Jonathan Trott (ICC rating 840 then, 628 now), the 5th best in Alastair Cook (783 then, 633 now), and three others in the world’s top 21 batsmen – Kevin Pietersen (722 then, 661 now), Ian Bell (720 then, 657 now), and Matt Prior (692 then, 583 now). Bell at 18 is England’s highest ranking batsman who contributes enough to an great dressing room atmosphere to actually get picked; Pietersen of course is 17th.
India on the other hand had three batsmen in the top ten then, in Sachin Tendulkar (832), VVS Laxman (771) and Virender Sehwag (759). Now they have just two – two more than England – Cheteshwar Pujara (216 then, 819 now) and Virat Kohli (784), whilst wicket keeper and captain MS Dhoni (553 then, 604 now) has also risen in the rankings.
The bowling fortunes of both sides are even more starkly contrasted. In 2011 James Anderson (800 then, 731 now) was ranked the second best bowler in the world after just Dale Steyn; today he is ranked 12th. England also had Graeme Swann (780) rated as the third best bowler in the world. Chris Tremlett (638 then, 465 now) and Stuart Broad (621 then, 719 now) were backed up by Steven Finn (564 then, 541 now), Monty Panesar (436 then, 424 now) Tim Bresnan (406 then, 502 now).
India too don’t fare too well with the bowlers either, although at least in Ravi Ashwin (744) they do at least have one player in the top ten of the rankings, with Pragyan Ojha (418 then, 726 now) sandwiched between Anderson and Broad in 13th. 2011 attack leader Zaheer Khan (735 then, 581 now) will be missed, as will the 2011 form of Ishant Sharma (665 then, 548 now).
But-but, sir, but sir, what does this mean?
Not a lot, like the rest of the ICC player rankings, the wrong’un opines: opponents in Test cricket change too slowly to match the individual fluctuations in form to make the player rankings mean very much. I didn’t bother to go too far down the list, if a player wasn’t in the top 30 either then or now then they were beyond my research botheredability; which is a grossly unfair way of ignoring the newer players like Ballance, Dhawan, Ali, etc.
If it means anything, and ok it might, it probably means that the cricket on display won’t be as of high a standard as it was in 2011. I fink we knew that anyway. Good luck flogging them tickets.