Nothing 'Super' about T20 rankings

Updated: 11 September 2012 13:30 IST

When Pakistan beat Australia in the second Twenty20 International in the United Arab Emirates, the chief emotion for neutral observers was general chortling at the fact that Australia had slipped below Ireland in the ICC T20 rankings.

Nothing 'Super' about T20 rankings
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When Pakistan beat Australia in the second Twenty20 International in the United Arab Emirates, the chief emotion for neutral observers was general chortling at the fact that Australia had slipped below Ireland in the ICC T20 rankings.

In a politically correct world, whether the laughter was aimed at Australia, or the system that made such a ranking possible would have been hard to say. In the real world, Australia were very much like the one-time bullying kid in school at whom everyone laughs - if only for two days.

The vagaries of the ranking system can be partially explained by the fact that the raw data for Twenty20 Internationals with regard to the number of matches played is too few and rankings will take time to stabilise until enough T20 Internationals are played. Thus Ireland, with 15 wins in 28 matches, trumped Australia with 25 wins in 51 matches after defeat in the second T20I, though Australia clambered back to ninth with victory in Monday's final game.

It is equally true that there appears to be something inherently flawed in a system that treats matches played against Kenya, Bangladesh and Afghanistan on the same scale as matches against Pakistan, South Africa and England.

Those are not just random names. Of all Australia's T20 Internationals, only three have come against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. All the others have been against the top nations. Ireland, on the other hand, have played only six of their matches against top nations, with five defeats and one no-result.

It will be an undoubtedly complex venture to revisit international rankings for Twenty20 cricket, and assign them in such a way as to take into account the 'quality' - for lack of a better word - of a win or defeat.

There was one other aspect of the Australia-Pakistan match though that still rankled, and it didn't require a degree in mathematics or statistics to fix.

With both teams having fought well, and to what was supposed to be the end, the scores were tied. And that brought forth the Super Over.

Ever since I first heard of it, I've never quite seen eye-to-eye with the 'Super' moniker for that particular tie-breaker.

The first instance of a tie in a T20 International being decided by the Super Over was when New Zealand took on West Indies in December 2008 in Auckland. Both teams ended at 155, but with Chris Gayle in their side, West Indies won in the Super Over. Daniel Vettori, then the New Zealand captain, had a terse "It's called Twenty20, not One1" reaction to the defeat.

Vettori had a point. A Twenty20 game is already a compressed format in which an edged four or a misdirected wide can end up costing teams. However, better teams winning more consistently still holds good, even if the gap is not quite as wide as in Test cricket.

However, crucially, T20 matches do give enough space for a contest. And even if the entire match lasts only 40 overs, a tie tells you that both teams gave it their all but ended up dead even over the course of the contest.

It is almost axiomatic that any game of cricket - Test, One-Day International or T20 - that ends in a tie has seen plenty of twists and turns until the final ball is bowled. After that, playing one over each seems anti-climatic, whether 'Super' or not.

Imagine Ravi Shastri walking out to bat for one over immediately after the Tied Test of 1986, while Dean Jones waited to remove the drip from his arm when it was his turn to bat after India had a go. Or how Steve Waugh's autobiography would have read if the semifinal of the 1999 World Cup had to be decided by a Super Over. In all probability, Waugh would have written something along the lines of how Lance Klusener destroyed them rather than how the Australians ran around like madmen after the most famous tie in ODI history.

We will probably never get to the stage where ODIs are decided by Super Overs, and we will certainly never see a Tied Test decided that way, but the principle of an even contest being decided by what is little more than the throw of a dice remains.

The tied game is a wonderful result in cricket. The key word in the previous sentence is not 'cricket' or 'wonderful' but 'result'. Because that's what a tied match is - a result, just as much as a win or a loss.

Twenty20 may be as far removed from traditional cricket as is possible, but it hasn't yet gone so far that wins against the established nations come easier than wins against the minnows. And it shouldn't go so far as to deem a tie an unworthy result.

Topics : Cricket Australia Pakistan Ireland ICC World Twenty20 2012
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