prw cricket rankings II

Six years ago I published my first 'prw cricket rankings'. With six of the eight nations playing each other at the moment and the Twenty20 World Cup around the corner, it seems a good time for an update.

These are rankings with a difference. Highly and intentionally subjective. As a cricket fan, it doesn't matter too much who is playing, I enjoy watching. But as I stand outside myself, I do find myself favouring one team over the other. As in 2010, what follows is the ranking of my favourite teams. When any one of these teams is playing, I find myself cheering for it when it plays any team below it in these rankings.

1. [NO CHANGE]  New Zealand
While I am a Kiwi, I am not one that is given to boorish nationalistic fervour. Nevertheless there is a heartbeat inside that keeps New Zealand atop my rankings. With the brand of cricket being played under Brendon McCullum, a small multitude have NZ moving up their rankings as well. Pulsating cricket. McCullum's leadership has revolutionised the 50-over format of the global game. Even England's resurgence after the World Cup is due, in large part, to McCullum. For me, however, I tend to be a fan that keeps the handbrake on! He has been too reckless at crucial times. His dismissal in the World Cup Final was dumb. Even more annoying is the cavalier way in which our lower order has batted in Test matches under his leadership [NB: it is the reason for Ross Taylor missing out on a triple century]. So I feel no great grief with McCullum's imminent retirement, because longtime favourites like Boult and Williamson are well able to deliver the enjoyment that will keep New Zealand #1 for me.

2. [UP FOUR]  Pakistan
So much has happened in these past six years, none more significant than getting to know Pakistan through books (a history and a history of cricket) and through the people I've met on visits there. I feel an uncommon empathy for the people. Because of the terrorist threat that has destroyed peoples' perceptions of their country, the Pakistani cricket team never gets to play in front of their own friends and family anymore. How would you like that to be the case, as a fan? At partition, India kept all the cricket infrastructure and Pakistan had to start from scratch - and then, within a handful of years, against incredible odds, but with this seemingly endless source of mercurial talent, they proceeded to beat India, Australia, West Indies, and England. Incredible.

3. [UP ONE]  Sri Lanka
Once again, I am affected by having made visits to this country. A special people. Never, ever will I forget waking up in Colombo one morning to three TV channels covering the Christchurch earthquake - and then hearing Sri Lankans each day at our seminar pouring out their hearts in prayer for my people (against the backdrop of their own tsunami that caused far, far more death and destruction). And then there is ... Sangakkara. I like sportspeople who are skilled, gracious, smart and articulate. 'Sanga' has all four in abundance. Sri Lanka is a bit like NZ in that it is a smaller country that produces such talent. Shame on the media for not making more of Chandimal's astonishing innings. It was Botham-esque. And when the young Chameera carved up NZ the other week, I did taste some joy. I confess it.

4. [UP ONE]   England
While I am not a great fan of Cook or Anderson (an over-rated player - of the 21 highest wicket-takers among fast bowlers in history, 18 of them have lower averages than Anderson and the only two with a higher average played on lifeless South Asian wickets: Kapil Dev and Vaas) - when I turn on the TV and see a Root or a Buttler or a Stokes, it is seduction time. It really is. Root is something else. Throw in Broad's uncanny capacity to turn a match in half an hour ... yeah, I like this team. Got a good manager and their administration dealt decisively and finally with Kevin Pieterson.

5. [NEW]   Bangladesh
Decided to add them in this time. I don't know the players well, but I gain such enjoyment when this unsung team does well.

6. [DOWN THREE]   West Indies
Oh dear. What a mess. I LOVED this team as a kid, but the local administrators can't seem to hold it all together - and with so little money in the Caribbean, their stars forsake playing for the inter-nation West Indies team, for whom they must feel less loyalty than for their own nations, as they disperse around the world in pursuit of the highest bidder. Meanwhile the game back home deconstructs. It is pretty sad. I find it hard it to blame the players, but it is also hard to see the West Indies ever being strong again.

7. [SAME]   South Africa
It is odd. This team doesn't quicken my pulse at all. It leaves me neutral, even kinda disinterested. Maybe I need to go live there for a season. Sure, de Villiers may be a talent. Amla may be one of the most impressive Muslims on earth ... but the guy who is going to be such fun to watch over the next decade is Rabada.

8. [DOWN SIX]   India
Big drop here. All sorts of reasons. The Fab Four are missed. It is a long, long time since this post was written. Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag are all gone. Skilled players each one of them ... but such classy people and their replacements just don't seem to be in the same league, with skill or character. Then there is that IPL, chewing-gum cricket around which the cricketing world now spins, as it works covertly to dismantle the world of cricket in countries that cannot afford to pay its players handsomely. At the moment, my favourite Indian cricketer is Shashank Manohar, an administrator. He has risen to power amidst the ashes of the most shameful corruption and among the first things he did was call into question the greedy, short-sighted hijack of global cricket by the Big Three (India, Australia, England). He is da man.

My favourite Indian cricketer
9. [DOWN ONE]   Australia
I don't really buy into the cross-Tasman rivalry. The Aussies are the greatest sporting nation in the world. I admire their mental strength, in particular. In the two most recent Tests, NZ gets the rough end of the most appalling, game-changing, umpiring decisions and we just disintegrate as a team. The Aussies would have come back all the harder. That is the difference between the two countries. But until Australia gets a Sangakkara-type person at the helm and the culture of their cricket changes, they will not rise far in my rankings. They love to speak of playing 'aggressive' cricket - when, in fact, all too often it is just a bit of graceless, ugly and arrogant cricket. Throw in those infuriating commentators who work more as adoring fans, than objective critics ... and the bottom of my rankings ain't gonna change in a hurry.

nice chatting



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