England’s defeat at the hands of the West Indies proves one thing: No one can take their place for granted in Test cricket. After all, this was the England team that beat the currently rejoicing Indian team by a shocking 4-1 margin not six months ago.
It makes a little bit of a mockery of the current world rankings, particularly since the points accumulated do not necessarily reflect the actual current state of the game and do need some more revision in terms of how they are awarded in terms of teams, rankings, standings and on the basis on home and away.
By mathematical deductions and simple iterations, West Indies beat England. England beat India. India beat Australia. England beat Sri Lanka. Australia beat Sri Lanka. So, how does the pedestal look after what has been a rather surprising and phenomenal year for Test cricket at a time when Twenty20 has dominated agendas for a decade and the ICC Cricket World Cup is the next itinerary teams are setting their sights on?
While any win for the West Indies brings back a sense of nostalgia given that the Caribbean islands have produced some of cricket’s finest champions in the yesteryears, one cannot unfortunately deride the fact that the Test teams currently on show are not an entirely settled bunch. In many ways, the fickle weather play of the England team – their struggles from the previous Ashes being relived in terms of their batting, has meant that the quality of the battle on show is suffering because of the malaise of the modern game.
While it makes Test cricket rather intriguing, there is plenty of room for improvement. What is worthy to note is that while England have lapsed badly in their attempt to stay consistent and improve since that Ashes debacle, West Indies, despite the greater propensity of their players to defect to the Twenty20 leagues, have managed to put together a team that can withstand the pressure of Test cricket enough to make a sizeable dent on the landscape even if this one has been a long time coming, if one leaves out Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
West Indies’ own cricket has oscillated from hope to misery once too often and while they have every right to rejoice this renewed hope, a lot will, also, depend, on the manner in which they now approach the dead rubber in the form of the third Test given that they have won the Test series comprehensively and also, because they will miss the double centurion and captain, Jason Holder, from the third Test as a measure of penalty for slow over rate which could considerably undermine the team given that Holder has been crucial to picking up wickets as well.
With both teams struggling for consistency, while one would like to think this is an isolated problem, the fact cannot be overlooked that the rest of the cricket world including India who are euphoric about their trip down under after suffering a rather ignominious loss of a golden opportunity in England prior to the tour of Australia, cannot rest easy/ The state of Test cricket as it stands suggests that even while the rankings keep it interesting, they are not really the reflection of the current state of affairs nor are they the basis on which betting predictions can be made.