The debate over who is the best Test batsman in the world has been reignited ever since Steve Smith made an epic return to the format after more than a year out of the international game.
The Australian’s twin tons under adverse circumstances in the first Ashes Test against England at Edgbaston to lead his team to a win has seen him once again enter the conversation.
When it comes to the best Test batsman of the ongoing era, it is the ‘Fab Four’ comprising of Smith, Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root who have dominated the discussion for several years.
“I said during the summer that Virat Kohli is the best player I have ever seen but that (Smith’s knocks) is just another level,” Australia head coach Justin Langer said after Smith’s magnificent display at Edgbaston.
There may never be a clear consensus among fans and pundits alike when it comes to picking one from the four batsmen with each of them having his own merits. We do, however, have the official yardstick of the ICC Test rankings to fall back on when it comes to making this tough decision.
Smith’s knocks of 144 and 142 at Birmingham have seen the right-hander break into the top-three of the rankings again despite spending more than a year out of the game due to his ball-tampering suspension.
That superlative display by the former Australia skipper has seen him collect as many as 46 rating points from just one game to overtake India’s Cheteshwar Pujara to the third spot. It has taken the Aussie’s points tally to 903 and he is now only 13 behind the No1 ranked Kohli who is perched at the top with 922 points.
Black Caps skipper Williamson is sandwiched in the second spot with 913 points despite the fewer number of Tests played by his side while his England counterpart Root is further behind in sixth-place with 741 points.
With Australia, India, England and New Zealand all in action in the Test format in the upcoming few weeks, it is going to be an interesting race to the No1 spot.
The Aussies and the English are currently locked in a fierce battle for the Ashes while India are all set to play a two-Test series in the West Indies later this month. New Zealand, meanwhile, will be in action in a two-Test series in Sri Lanka which begins next week.
As Smith has shown with his display at Edgbaston, a huge swing in the points can take place after just one match and that means that the top positions in the rankings could be changing hands multiple times in the near future.
Upcoming Test series
West Indies (away) – Two Tests in August
South Africa (home) – Three Tests in October
Bangladesh (home) – Two Tests in November
New Zealand (away) – Two Tests in February, 2020
Upcoming Test series
Sri Lanka (away) – Two Tests in August
Australia (Away) – Three Tests in December
India (home) – Two Tests in February, 2020
Upcoming Test series
England (away) – Four Tests remaining in August-September
Pakistan (home) – Two Tests in November
New Zealand (home) – Three Tests in December
Bangladesh (away) – Two Tests in February, 2020
Upcoming Test series
Australia (home) – Four Tests remaining in August-September
South Africa (away) – Five Tests in December-January
Sri Lanka (away) – Two Tests in March, 2020
Jofra Archer and Jack Leach have been included in England’s 12-man squad for the second Ashes Test at Lord’s next week but Moeen Ali has been dropped.
Paceman Archer is in line to make a much-anticipated Test debut as a replacement in the XI for England’s record wicket-taker James Anderson, ruled out at the Home of Cricket because of a calf injury that restricted him to four overs in the Specsavers series opener.
Leach, man of the match in his most recent Test outing against Ireland a fortnight ago, has come in for fellow spinner Moeen, who has been omitted after a poor showing in the 251-run defeat to Australia last week.
Moeen offered neither control nor a consistent threat in Australia’s second innings, with unflattering figures of two for 130 from 29 overs containing two ‘moon ball’ beamers.
His ineffectiveness came under scrutiny after fellow off-spinner Nathan Lyon took six for 49 which helped to lift Australia into a 1-0 lead in the five-Test series.
The all-rounder also contributed just four runs with the bat and his recent run of low scores has seen his average dip below 30, prompting England to turn to Leach, whose improbable 92 as a nightwatchman ushered Joe Root’s side to victory against Ireland.
Furthermore, Leach’s slow left-armers are viewed as a potential antidote to Australia talisman Steve Smith, who averages 34.9 against orthodox left-arm finger spin, comfortably his lowest among the various modes of bowling.
Smith became only the fifth Australian to register hundreds in either innings of an Ashes contest at Edgbaston though England are likely to have more of a varied bowling attack at HQ.
Archer, England’s leading wicket-taker during their triumphant World Cup campaign, is set to provide the pace threat, with the Bajan-born speedster capable of regularly bowling in excess of 90mph.
He was omitted in Birmingham due to concerns over a side strain but has proven his fitness in a Sussex Second XI fixture this week, taking six for 27 before amassing a breezy century against Gloucestershire’s second string.
Fellow paceman Olly Stone’s back injury precludes his involvement though left-arm seamer Sam Curran retains his place in the squad, as does Joe Denly, whose spot came under scrutiny after scores of 18 and 11 last week.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes.
Provided by Press Association Sports
The Indian cricket board and the world body seem to be on a collision course over the issue of tax.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will seek legal advice from English law experts after receiving intimation from the International Cricket Council (ICC) that the country stands to lose a share of its annual revenue from the world body for the loss caused by failure to get tax exemption for the 2016 World T20 in India.
Taxation has become a bone of contention between the two bodies with the ICC seeking to recover the 10 per cent tax that broadcaster Star had to pay to tax authorities in India and which was thus reduced from the amount it paid to the ICC. The BCCI, on the other hand, insists it was only following existing taxation rules in India.
According to reports, India’s share of ICC’s revenue stands at $405 million over eight years and that could be reduced by $40.5m.
Not only that, there is a threat of India losing hosting rights to the 2021 World T20 and the 2023 World Cup if tax relief isn’t guaranteed.
What is making the situation peculiar is that the ICC is led by Shashank Manohar, who was the BCCI chief until 2016.
The Indo-Asian News Service quoted a BCCI official as saying that the board will follow the rule of the land, and even dared the ICC to take the tournament out of India.
“We will abide by what the tax department and the ministry decides on this. We would love for the World Cup to take place here (India), but if the ICC wants to play hard ball, they must be ready for everything,” an unnamed official was quoted as saying.
“If they want to take the ICC tournament out of India, it’s fine. Let BCCI then take the revenue out of the ICC and see who loses more.”
The Indian board is still smarting from the ICC’s decision to slash it’s revenue share from $570 million to $293 million before finally settling on $405m after hectic negotiations in 2017.
The ICC, under Manohar, had enforced a restructure that has resulted in more funds to other member boards.