The ICC have today revealed their Twenty20 International rankings, and following a weekend in which their team was hammered again in India, England fans can cheer being officially ranked as the number one side in the world.
The player rankings also place England’s Eoin Morgan at the top of the batting rankings, Ajantha Mendis as the number one bowler and Shane Watson as the top all-rounder.
Cricket World has its own Most Valuable Player (MVP) rankings which work in a different way. Taking into account performances from the last 12 months, players who start their career strongly feature prominently and those who are in-form are highly rewarded.
Therefore, there are some big differences – for example, Morgan places sixth on our list which is headed by Brendon McCullum, we have Patrick Cummins leading the bowling and then McCullum leading the overall rankings (batting rating added to bowling rating) although Watson is right up there too.
However, the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that Ajantha Mendis is nowhere to be seen. The reason is quite simple. To qualify for a T20 ranking, a player must appear at least twice in the preceding 12 months. Number one ranked or not by the ICC, Sri Lanka have only picked Mendis in one of the four T20Is they have played in the last 12 months – the most recent, in fact, against Australia in August, when he did exceptionally well to take six for 16.
Over his career, he has taken 39 wickets at an average of 10.89 with an economy rate of 5.59. There is no argument that these are world-class, but where should we rank Mendis?
Should the rankings discriminate against those players who aren’t playing regularly (as ours do) or should we simply look at them as an indicator of whose careers have been the most impressive?
What is quite clear is that numbers do not tell the whole story. As impressive as they are (or at least in the eyes of the ICC) they do not tell the story of a man who made an outstanding start to his career before struggling somewhat as teams found him out; so much so that Sri Lanka operated a policy of keeping him back for key games – now the reverse is true – he doesn’t get picked to play against India any more.
So, rankings – good for debate and nothing else, or can we use them effectively? Perhaps we should be using both systems – one as an overall career indicator, the other as a measure of who is producing the goods at any given time?