Following their comprehensive victory against New Zealand in the 2nd Test at Eden Gardens, India became the top-ranked Test team. However, their position is still not secure with Pakistan set to host West Indies for a 3-Test series at UAE. With the third match at Indore beginning this Saturday, the race for grabbing pole position should turn into an enthralling one.
In the aftermath of the momentous occasion, skipper Virat Kohli had quipped, “Rankings are something that are just an incentive for what you do on the field. I didn't even know how many points difference we had to get to No.1. We just want to win every game we play, it’s as simple as that.”
Whilst he may not be too keen on focusing on the various scenarios, let us take a look at what India needs to do in order to enter the England series as the number one Test side.
#1 If India wins the third Test: Aside from completing a 3-0 whitewash, a victory at Indore will also mean that they move up to 115 rating points and open up a 4-point advantage over their arch rivals. Even if Pakistan inflict a similar 3-0 drubbing on West Indies, India will maintain the top spot with a 3-point lead.
#2 If the third Test is drawn or tied: India will move up to 113 rating points and enjoy a 2-point advantage as well as a 2-0 series victory. In case Misbah’s men clean sweep West Indies 3-0, India’s number one rank remains but their lead would be cut down to 1 point.
#3 If India loses the third Test: While they will win the series 2-1, India should only hang on by a thread at the top of the rankings. They will reach 111 rating points which means Pakistan can displace them at the summit with a 3-0 whitewash over West Indies as they would gain a point and propel to 112 rating points. However, anything less than that could see them drop rating points and India will maintain their top spot by at least one rating point.
Considering India’s recent form, especially under home conditions, they would be particularly disappointed if they somehow go on to lose the third Test. With a packed season in the horizon comprising of 10 more Tests (5 against England, 1 against Bangladesh and 4 against Australia), Kohli’s troops will be targeting a lengthy stay at the top of the rankings.
Meanwhile, Pakistan have a tough schedule coming up as tours to New Zealand (2 Tests) and Australia (3 Tests) should offer a stern examination of their adaptability across different surfaces. Though they emerged out of England with a praiseworthy 2-2 draw, their dire record down under (0-9 from the previous three 3-match series) coupled with the Aussies’ propensity to demolish visiting teams at home may hamper their chances of reclaiming the Test mace.
Interestingly, the Pakistanis will play their inaugural day-night Test against West Indies at Dubai which might turn out to be a tricky proposition. They also follow up the historic contest with another pink-ball Test in Brisbane to begin the 3-match series in Australia. The number of rating points that they stand to gain or lose in their away trips would be determined by the lead-up results.
The ICC rankings do not factor in the differentiation between home and away performances with only the prior team position as well as rating points taken into account. Apart from the current spell, India have spent 22 cumulative months at the top of the Test rankings in three separate terms. On the other hand, Pakistan had tasted their maiden surge to number one following the England tour in August.