Cape Town – India may pull the financial and other strings more powerfully than others in world cricket, but their Test team has tumbled down the ICC rankings following their latest, series-deciding humiliation at the hands of England at the weekend.
It is not the most desirable situation for a nation now spearheading a controversial “big three” clique (England and Australia the others) in global strategic terms -- but a development that will not exactly be mourned by plenty of South Africans, aware of the chilly relations in recent times between the dictatorial BCCI and an often cowed CSA.
If the Proteas are being cynically marginalised in several ways, it is not yet being reflected on the Test ladder, where Hashim Amla’s side (124) holds a defiant lead of one rating point over the second-placed Aussies.
India, though, are the big “movers” – and for all the wrong reasons – following their fifth-Test rout at the hands of resurgent England at The Oval, having sunk into double figures (96 points) and only fifth place on the rankings as they surrendered the series 3-1 from a 1-0 lead.
Alastair Cook’s combo have settled into third for the time being on 104 points, followed by Sri Lanka in fourth on 101; the last-named team have just seen off Pakistan 2-0 in a home series, a fitting swansong for veteran run machine Mahela Jayawardene.
The Indians have been unusually ghastly at all of The Oval (bowled out for 148 and 94), Old Trafford (totals off 152 and 161) and the Rose Bowl (178 in the second knock), raising fresh suggestions that the country’s bosses are too obsessed with money-spinning limited-overs cricket.
At the top, the scrap between southern hemisphere superpowers the Proteas and Baggy Greens is likely to remain tight and “exclusive” for some time, although the Aussies can nudge ahead again if they beat Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October and November.
It cannot be taken for granted, as the fickle Pakistanis tend to play much better in their adopted, spin-friendly home environment of the UAE.
India have a chance to get back on the horse, to some extent, when they host fragile West Indies around the same time, whilst South Africa’s only home summer challenge is a three-Test one from the Caribbean visitors.
But even if they see off West Indies, the Indians face another searching examination of their mettle when they are the headline visiting Test act of the Australian season and will face a pace/seam bombardment all over again.
England will try to underline their seeds of new promise next year when they fight to wrestle back the Ashes from Aussie hands between June and September in the UK, ahead of their enticing four-Test series in South Africa in 2015/16.
CSA has tried, without success thus far, to expand that England series to a five-Test affair: the Proteas seem to be rather forgotten elements these days for series of that purist-approved length.
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