Cow Corner

Who are the world’s best team?

Cow Corner

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It may not have been apparent to casual observers so far this summer, but India are officially the number one side in the world right now.

South Africa are the second best side, according to the ICC Test Championship rankings, while England are the next cab in line. Below that, Sri Lanka and Australia occupy fourth and fifth places respectively.

This series has been billed as the two best sides in the world locking horns to decide who is the best. But is this fair? After all, South Africa must be sitting in second spot wondering why their claims are being largely ignored.

ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said prior the series: "One cannot imagine it to be any better than between two of the top teams in a series that carries with it the battle for top spot in the rankings."

Essentially, England will lead the ICC rankings by three ratings points if the hosts win the series by two clear matches - in that scenario, India would hold on to second spot with South Africa slipping to third.

However, as the more patriotic and bullish of the hosts are swiftly pointing out after seeing their side sweep to a 2-0 series lead at Trent Bridge, if England were to complete a whitewash, India would even drop below the Proteas to third.

South Africa are not scheduled to play Test cricket until November when Graeme Smith's side host Australia, so England's destiny is firmly in their own hands.

We ask the questions: Who are the world's best team? Are the rankings to be believed? Does the ICC's measurement reflect the true standard of each team?

Below is an assessment of the top five sides in the world based on the current ICC Test Championship rankings:

           INDIA       

Current ranking: 1

Current rating: 125

Verdict: The India batting line up is frankly salivating: Messrs Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Sehwag - on paper it is a collection of stars which no other team can come close to matching. But are they a cohesive unit? India have often been criticised for a lack of team spirit and the ability to pull through tricky situations and face adversity as a group. Many would point to their showings so far in England and conclude that MS Dhoni's side are not the best battlers in the field, nor the fittest. 

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SOUTH AFRICA

Current ranking: 2

Current rating: 118

Verdict: Arguably, South Africa possess a pace attack even more threatening and destructive than England's much-vaunted unit. In Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel the Proteas have the best bowler in the world and another pacer ranked in the top three. In Jacques Kallis they have a staunch and obdurate runscorer - the best all-rounder in the world. Led by the fiery and uncompromising Graeme Smith, South Africa have the drive and talent to suggest they could be the best side in the world when in good form. But do SA have enough depth of talent?

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ENGLAND

Current ranking: 3

Current rating: 117

Verdict:  Led with distinction by captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower, England have built and nurtured a deep squad of talent, particularly in the bowling department, that seem to produce more than the sum of their parts. England boast strength in depth with an abundance of talented seamers led by James Anderson, and in Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott have have a cluster of batsmen who score prolifically and feature near the top of the rankings. Already 2-0 up in the current series with India, England's stock continues to rise.

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SRI LANKA

Current ranking: 4

Current rating: 108

Verdict: Crucially, Sri Lanka now lack leadership with the talismanic Kumar Sangakkara no longer in charge, and constant upheaval off the field - the selection committee have all been sacked - continues to undermine the team. Sri Lanka are always a side brimming with talent, but record-breaking Muttiah Muralitharan's magic has yet to be adequately replaced and the hole left by Sanath Jayasuriya at the top of the order continues to be hard felt. It looks like they might be entering a period of transition.

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  AUSTRALIA

Current ranking: 5

Current rating: 100

Verdict: National selector Andrew Hilditch continues to be slated in Australia for chopping and changing Michael Clarke's transitional squad, with the 10 spinners employed in four years following the retirement of Shane Warne a source of frustration and, in some quarters, of mockery. Further experience was lost when opener Simon Katich was ditched, and Australia have a period of rebuilding to do with an inexperienced squad in desperate need of continuity. Is Clarke the right man to lead Australia? It remains to be seen. The team will have to get behind him long-term.

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Conclusion: The top three sides in the world appear to be established a gap between themselves and the other teams with their consistency and firepower. India have the best team on paper with a collection of individual stars, while England have the best team ethos and leadership in Flower and Strauss at the helm. South Africa's pace attack is formidable, but the Proteas perhaps lack the batting clout to challenge India and England, with Strauss's side bursting with confidence. The momentum is with England and their destiny is in their hands.

Who do you think are the best team in the world right now? Post your views and comments below...

 

 

Predictor: England win 4-0

1 - England (125 points)

2 - South Africa (118 points)

3 - India (117 points)

 

 

Predictor: England win 3-0

1 - England (124 points)

2 - India (119 points)

3 - South Africa (118 points)

 

 

Predictor: England win 3-1
 
1 - England (123 points)
 
2 - India (119 points)
 
3 - South Africa (118 points)
 
 

 

Predictor: England win 2-0
 
1 - England (123 points)
 
2 - India (119 points)
 
3 - South Africa (118 points)
 
 

 

Predictor: Series drawn 2-2
 
1 - India (124 points)
 
2 - England (118 points)
 
3 - South Africa (118 points)
 
 

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