| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Jan 22 With Pakistan shedding
their notorious unpredictability and Australia coming to terms
with a tricky transition, test cricket hierarchy in the next
couple of months might look more like a banana republic... ripe
for a coup.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) dangles an annual
$175,000 carrot for whichever team tops test rankings on the
April 1 cut-off date and table-toppers England were justified in
believing they could be cashing the cheque in a few months.
They still lead the race by a healthy margin but being
thumped by an ambitious Pakistan team inside three days of their
first test this year, skipper Andrew Strauss and his team mates
can no longer take it for granted.
If England may be lined up for an April Fool's Day surprise,
the situation is even worse for the team they inherited the
number one ranking from.
India, beaten 4-0 by England last year, are staring at their
second successive overseas whitewash against an Australian team
determined to claw their way back to the top.
The inconsistencies at the top is good news for South
Africa, who now sniff a slim chance to gatecrash England's
At present, England top the official rankings with 125
points, followed by India (118), South Africa (117), Australia
(103), Pakistan (99) and Sri Lanka (98).
England's rise to the top was a reward for a blemish-free
2011 when Strauss's men did not lose a single test.
But the side were given a rude awakening in Dubai earlier
this week where Pakistan, one of the most improved teams last
year with just one loss and six wins, spanked them in three days
to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.
"This England team have not won in the subcontinent. They
even played badly in the World Cup last year, which was held in
India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka," former England opener Geoffrey
Boycott wrote in a column in the Telegraph newspaper.
"Until they start playing well in the subcontinent they
can't call themselves the best team in the world and definitely
can't be judged against some of the other great England sides,"
Former Pakistan skipper Javed Miandad was also quick to pour
scorn over the ICC system.
"I don't believe much in rankings because it doesn't give a
clear picture of the team's overall performance in the world,"
Miandad was quoted as saying by Cricinfo (www.espncricinfo.com).
"England are now the number one team because they had the
home advantage and never lost in their backyard."
There was similar disputing of India's rise to the top
despite their woeful record outside the subcontinent.
However, England can still guarantee themselves the hefty
ICC cheque by winning at least one of the remaining two tests
against Pakistan or drawing both.
But if Pakistan beat England by a 2-0 margin or more, South
Africa could pocket the cheque, provided they can blank New
Zealand in the away test series in March.
England now have two tests to redeem themselves or it would
be more instability at the top, which maybe good for the game
but certainly not for Strauss and his men.
(Editing by John O'Brien; To comment on this story: email
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