Monthly Archives: January 2016

Scrap the ICC Test Team Rankings – Looking at a Better Way to Determine Test Match Cricket’s World Champions

30th January 2016

Patrolling the Boundary  – a view from the outfield

So India are the Test World Champions. You’re kidding me, right? Really?

The morning after England had secured a Test series win in South Africa (who until that point had topped the ICC’s Test rankings table), the news emerged that India were now reckoned as the new ‘no. 1’ after South Africa’s defeat and dethroning.

This couldn’t be correct, surely? Is that the reward for loading home pitches and preparing raging bunsens to stuff South Africa in November/December?

I wondered if I’d woken up in some ridiculous alternate universe where the system to evaluate the world’s best Test cricket team was determined by weird, unfathomable algebraic equations that were both illogical and counter-intuitive. And perhaps even worse, completely lacking in accountability or transparency.

Nope. This, sadly, unbelievably, is Test cricket’s REALITY.

This is the ICC’s Test Rankings System, described recently by the Yorkshire Post’s Chris Waters as “an unfathomable waste of time”; and as “pointless” and “completely irrelevant” by Two Men Out’s Jarrod Kimber and Andy Zaltzman on ESPN Cricinfo.

Admittedly, it is pretty close points-wise in the rankings’ top half-dozen, with a DRS tracking-system perhaps being needed to determine between the placings; while at the bottom there is a huge modern bat-width between the teams on the lower rungs of the ladder.

But however close, I really don’t think many pundits, fans, or analysts seriously consider India to be Test cricket’s best team.

What I am going to suggest in this article is not only that they aren’t – but that they are identified as such because the system used is just plain wrong.

And I am going to offer two alternative, workable systems – and suggest that one of them ought to replace the current one.

In fact, in both versions of those alternative systems PAKISTAN come out on top. Indeed, perhaps oddly and coincidentally (or perhaps because they are similarly practical and reliable methods) those two systems actually provide identical placings for all ten Test playing countries:     Continue reading


More from John on Narine & Pitches

27th January 2016

Overthrows  – backing up strong returns

John Holder has followed up on his previous comments on Sunil Narine and pitches:

Hi David,

The reasons why so much time and effort are being put into remodelling Narine’s action are twofold. He is a match winner in one day cricket and he can earn a fortune in so doing. But the reality is that I do not know of any chucker who has been successful after undergoing remedial work on his action. If you were to see Saeed Ajmal bowl now you would be amazed. His action looks nothing like it did when he was chucking and he is now totally ineffective. I have not seen Shillingford but his results post working with Vasbert Drakes speak volumes.

Back in my Hampshire days, Tony Lock had to undergo similar work because he threw his faster ball. He left Surrey and played for Leicester. In a county match against us, he was bowling to Peter Sainsbury who was fighting a dogged rearguard action to avert defeat. Suddenly, and to Sainsbury’s amazement, a ball whistled past his nostrils to the keeper. Lock had resorted back to throwing.

There was also the South African fast bowler Geoff Griffin who was called for throwing. His career came to an early end despite efforts to correct his throwing.

There is a Barbadian groundsman, Paul Taylor who was second in command at Northampton who would be the ideal person to advise the Caribbean umpires on groundsmanship.He did a fantastic job at Northants and would be only too happy to help the WICB. Obviously, he would have to be paid but for me he is the ideal man.



John’s comment on Lock reminds me of the old story about Doug Insole. Once when bowled by Lock he turned to the square leg umpire to ask whether he’d been bowled or run out!

Meanwhile, here’s further news about John:

Congratulations, sir!

John Holder is a highly respected former international umpire, who stood in Tests & ODIs between 1988-2001, and in 1st-class cricket from 1982-2009. He was also the innovative mind behind the introduction of the ‘bowl-out’ to settle washed out one-day games.

John Holder responds to our podcast re poor pitches & Sunil Narine

26th January 2016

Overthrows  – backing up strong returns

Another very welcome missive from John Holder. He dropped me a line to react to a couple of the issues that Reds and I discussed in our latest Willow in the WIndies podcast, which you can still hear here, focusing on poor pitches and the continuing confusion surrounding Sunil Narine:

Hi David,

It was interesting listening to you and Reds discussing the poor quality of pitches in the Caribbean and the ongoing efforts to remedy Narine’s chucking.

Back in 2008 when I worked for ICC, I was asked by the WICB to submit a report on the quality of pitches and preparation in the Caribbean. This I did, with special mention of Guyana and Port of Spain. What concerned me most was that the pitches were virtual baked mud, on which the ball hardly bounced. Groundsmen shaved every blade of grass off the pitches, leaving lifeless mud surfaces on which the ball did not bounce, or come on to the bat. This led to boring cricket as batsmen could not play attacking strokes and there was no life for bowlers. I never even received an acknowledgement from the WICB, much less a thank you.

In 2010 while in Guyana during the T20 World Cup, I had a long conversation with Andy Atkinson the ICC pitch specialist. I knew Andy from England where he had been head groundsman for Essex and with whom I had worked while umpiring there. Andy was regarded as one of the country’s best groundsmen. He told me that a big problem in the Caribbean was that the pitches needed grass to help the ball to bounce and carry to the keeper. He simply could not get groundsmen to leave grass on the pitches.

I remember watching an inter-island 50 overs match at Providence between Guyana and the Combined Campuses. Chanderpaul and Sarwan, two Test batsmen, struggled to get the ball off the square because the bounce was below knee-high. There was not a blade of grass on its surface. The cricket was boring.

On the subject of bowlers throwing, I cannot recall any thrower in the past 50 years whose action was remedied. Jermaine Lawson, Shane Shillingford, Saeed Ajmal and now Johan Botha are among those who have failed. I first saw Shillingford and Ajmal in 2010 blatantly throwing and was amazed that they were not called. Both have had remedial work done on their actions, as a result of which they cannot spin the ball. Ajmal played for Worcester in England last summer. The change in his action is plain to see but he no longer spins the ball. Once a chucker, always a chucker.



I replied:   Continue reading

Sliding Down the… Legside, or Bannister?

26th January 2016

Around the World in 2 – a few occasional off-breaks

Each week for ‘Mason & Guests’ I put together a brief summary of cricket events outside the Caribbean, round-up the week’s notable WI birthdays & anniversaries, & throw in a few ‘Did You Know?’ facts:

“Hello! This is David Oram taking you ‘Around the World in 2‘:

“SA won the final Test today, though Eng won the series 2-1. Kagiso Rabada was MoM for his 13 wkts; while opener Stephen Cook became the 100th man to score a century on Test debut. Ironically, his father, Jimmy Cook was out 1st ball off the 1st of the match on his debut in 1992. Former capt Hashim Amla almost hit a 100 in each inngs, while current skipper AB deVilliers bagged a pair. Did You Know that was only the 2nd pair of ducks for a SA capt, following Louis Tancred v Eng in 1912? AB’s now scored 0 in each of his last 3 inngs. Eng wore black armbands in respect for Jack Bannister, the former cricketer, administrator, writer & broadcaster who’s died aged 85. For W’wicks he played with Rohan Kanhai & Lance Gibbs, & in 1966 was in the side that bt Worcs in the Gillette Cup Final at Lord’s, alongside Dr Rudi Webster. Bannister was later instrumental in the formation of the Professional Cricketers’ Association & was a prominent radio & TV commentator. When covering the 1995 tour of SA he wrote that Eng would win & he’d eat his words if they didn’t. They lost – but Jack was as good as his word – he duly consumed his newspaper column.

Continue reading

The Willow in the WIndies – innings no. 18

25th January 2016

The Caribbean cricket podcast

Episode 18 –T&T Win the Nagico Super 50 & Shiv Retires

Welcome to edition no.18 of The Willow in the WIndies.

This week Reds and I gathered to discuss the following:

Trinidad & Tobago’s victory over Barbados in the final of the Nagico Super50 tournament; the umpiring, & the review system for the competition; the quality of the pitches, as pointed out by Jason Holder; and the size of the boundaries.

We looked at emerging stories from the CPL, including news that the T&T Red Steel are to be renamed the T&T Knight Riders; and that Sunil Narine is leaving the Guyana Jaguars to join his native T&T franchise.

We also discussed the continuing confusion surrounding Narine, and his work on re-modelling his bowling action. Some reports suggested that he was to be denied playing for his local club while those doubts remained; while he is still keen to make the selected squad for WIndies’ World T20 campaign. I also queried whether Darren Sammy’s current form merited his inclusion in that squad.

We then discussed the success of the Big Bash T20 tournament in Australia – and especially the popularity of the women’s version of the competition. We wondered whether there might be a female element for the CPL? We noted the news that the Barbados Cricket Association has given eight women cricketers contracts; and Reds also looked wider at the development of the women’s game in the Caribbean.

We moved on to look at the retirement of Shiv Chanderpaul, and his likely move into Masters cricket. We also wondered whether Fidel Edwards was also heading in that direction?

Chanderpaul was one of several people lauded by the WICB this week, including Sir Richie Richardson, umpire Peter Nero, and Andy Ganteaume, who has turned 95.

We naturally touched upon Chris Gayle and his latest unsavoury outbursts, which came only a day or two after an appeal for support for him from Sir Hilary Beckles.

And we closed with memories of the cricket player, administrator and broadcaster, Jack Bannister who has died aged 85.

You can listen to the podcast here:

David Oram