South Africa vs India 2018: What India need to do to retain their number one Test ranking
With plenty at stake for both teams, an engrossing Test series is on the cards.
What's the story?
Considering India's recent dominant form in the format, there is a palpable sense of anticipation regarding their chances in the upcoming Test series against South Africa. Apart from the importance of proving their prowess away from home against world-class opposition, Virat Kohli's team also have their number one Test ranking to safeguard.
Even if they are defeated by a 0-3 margin in the 3-match series, India will retain their top spot in the ICC Test table. However, such a disastrous scoreline will only see them edge the Proteas on decimal points. In order to retain their current tally of 124 rating points, India will have to win the series by any margin.
Reiterating the importance of team rankings in Test cricket, South Africa coach Ottis Gibson affirmed, "Because there is no Test Championship just yet, the prize at the end of it is to reach the pinnacle to be called the best Test team in the world, even if only for a series or a week. The objective for this team is certainly to get to number one and we feel strongly that if we win the next two series, that will put us somewhere close to being number one again. Everybody in the group understands what we’re trying to achieve."
Prior to their previous Test series against Sri Lanka at home, India had been on 125 rating points. Despite winning the series 1-0, Kohli's team lost one rating point. Currently at 124 rating points, they have a 13-point lead over the second-ranked South African side.
The heart of the matter
Following are the various rankings scenarios for all possible scorelines in the series:
If South Africa win 3-0: India 118 (-6) and South Africa 118 (+7)
If South Africa win 2-0: India 120 (-4) and South Africa 116 (+5)
If South Africa win 2-1 or 1-0: India 121 (-3) and South Africa 115 (+4)
If series is drawn 1-1: India 123 (-1) and South Africa 112 (+1)
If India win 2-1 or 1-0: India 125 (+1) and South Africa 110 (-1)
If India win 2-0: India 126 (+2) and South Africa 109 (-2)
If India 3-0: India 128 (+4) and South Africa 107 (-4)
The first Test between India and South Africa will take place at Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town from January 5 onwards. The second and third Tests are scheduled to be held in Centurion and Johannesburg respectively.
Meanwhile, the final Test of the 2017/18 Ashes series will take place in Sydney from January 4 onwards. Even if Australia win that match and consequently take the series 4-0, they will not be able to displace South Africa from the second spot. Even if the Proteas suffer a 0-3 series defeat against India, they will remain at number two with a three-point lead.
While it is indeed good news for India that they will retain their number one ranking irrespective of the series scoreline, skipper Kohli and his troops will be eager to extend their recent form to overseas terrain and maintain a healthy lead at the top of the Test table.