All smiles: South Africa captain Graeme Smith celebrates his side being ranked the No 1 Test nation in the world by the ICC, but will the Proteas hold on to top spot under our new alternative ratings system though?
The International Cricket Council (ICC) recently published their latest rankings for the Test-playing nations, however, unsurprisingly they bore little actual resemblance to the current landscape in the international arena.
And that is because the system which the world governing body uses at present is flawed, taking into account as it does performances built up over a number of years, instead of focussing as it should do on the more relevant displays from the most recent past.
As a result, we have decided to produce an alternative rankings table based on how a side is performing right now, not 12 months ago for instance, with the main criteria being: if two nations were to meet both home and away today, just who would come out on top?
Current ICC ranking: 9th (34 points)
Last series' played: Drew 1-1 (2) at home with Pakistan in September 2013 and 1-1 (2) at home to Bangladesh in April 2013.
Next assignment: Unknown
The Southern Africans have not played much five-day cricket since their readmission to the Test arena and as a result, when they are called into action, they invariably lose.
And so to have them ranked anything other than in last place would be an absolute travesty to the other nine nations.
Current ICC ranking: 7th (87 points)
Last series' played: Lost 2-0 (3) in New Zealand in December 2013 and 2-0 (2) in India in November 2013
Next assignment: New Zealand (h) in May 2014
Based on their recent form, the men from the Caribbean are vastly overrated in the current ICC rankings, with Darren Sammy’s side having lost both of their two most recent series 2-0.
Current ICC ranking: 10th (18 points)
Last series' played: Drew 0-0 (2) at home to New Zealand in October 2013 and 1-1 (2) in Zimbabwe in April 2013.
Next assignment: Sri Lanka (a) in January and February 2014
There is no way that Bangladesh should be rated as the worst Test nation on present form, especially as they were capable of holding the likes of eighth-placed New Zealand the last time they were in action.
Current ICC ranking: 8th (82 points)
Last series' played: Beat West Indies 2-0 (3) at home in December 2013 and drew 0-0 (2) in Bangladesh in October 2013
Next assignment: India (h) in February 2014
Judging by their most recent showings, the Black Caps are ranked too low down in eighth place by the ICC at present, especially taking into account how easily they just overcame seventh-in-the-table West Indies.
And when one also considers how close they came to upsetting England on home soil earlier in the year, then a ranking of seventh is more reflective of the Kiwis’ current form, although they will need to start winning on the road to maintain that position going forward.
Current ICC ranking: 6th (88 points)
Last series played: Beat Bangladesh 1-0 (2) at home in March 2013
Next assignment: Currently in the middle of a three-Test series in Pakistan
At present, Sri Lanka are ranked sixth by the ICC, which is about right for a side that seem totally incapable of winning on their travels, while at the same time being over-reliant on overcoming weaker opponents on their spin-friendly tracks at home.
Current ICC ranking: 5th (102 points)
Last series played: Drew 1-1 (2) at home to South Africa in October 2013
Next assignment: Currently in the middle of a three-Test series at “home” to Sri Lanka
Pakistan remain a notoriously hard side to beat in their “home” conditions in the United Arab Emirates, as the world’s No. 1 ranked Test nation found out in October, and any team that is capable of holding the Proteas really should be doing better than fifth place in the ICC standings, which is where Misbah-ul-Haq and Co currently are.
Current ICC ranking: 4th (107 points)
Last series' played: Lost 5-0 (5) in Australia in November and December 2013 and beat Australia 3-0 (5) at home in July and August 2013
Next assignments: Sri Lanka (h) in June 2014 and India (h) in July and August 2014
Let’s face it, you would not currently back Alastair Cook’s men to beat many of the other nine Test nations and so an ICC ranking of fourth does looks slightly exaggerated at present.
However, victories in their next two series later this year would justify their placing in the table.
Current ICC ranking: 2nd (117 points)
Last series' played: Lost 1-0 (2) in South Africa in December 2013 and beat West Indies 2-0 (2) at home in November 2013
Next assignment: New Zealand (a) in February 2014
Just one position too high at second in the current ICC rankings after having lost their most recent series in South Africa, and it is their displays away from home that will need to improve over the course of this year if Duncan Fletcher wants to see his outfit challenge at the top of the table once again.
Current ICC ranking: 1st (133 points)
Last series' played: Beat India 1-0 (2) at home in December 2013 and drew 1-1 (2) in Pakistan in October 2013
Next assignment: Australia (h) in February and March 2014
To be at the top of the pile, you need to be able to beat any of your rivals both home and away, whatever the conditions, and the Proteas’ failure to overcome mid-table Pakistan in the UAE back in October has cost Graeme Smith’s men top spot in the rankings.
However, South Africa will have a chance to regain first place if they beat Australia at home in their next contest in February.
Current ICC ranking: 3rd (111 points)
Last series' played: Beat England 5-0 (5) in November and December 2013 and lost 3-0 (5) in England in July and August 2013
Next assignment: South Africa (a) in February and March 2014
On current form, the best Test team in the world after the drubbing they just handed out to England, a side that were ranked above them in the ICC standings going into the most recent Ashes series Down Under, do not forget.
And it is the comprehensive nature of that whitewash that sees Michael Clarke and Co just edge past South Africa to take top spot in the table, but all that could change though when those two nations go head to head next month in a three-Test series, with the No. 1 ranking at stake for the winner.