On the Front Foot: Indians the best in the world? The evidence fails to convince

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The annual Test rankings were published last week. They showed that India are easily the best side in the world on 130 points, a massive 11 ahead of South Africa in second place. Nobody believes this to be a true reflection of the teams' abilities. South Africa drew a Test series in India late last year, India played only nine Test matches in the entire year. India have had a tough time of it in Sri Lanka this past month and have suffered for it a little in the table. Yet still they stay top. The tables are calculated based on the most clinical statistical evidence accrued from results of matches played in the previous four years. But for all this, the gut feeling is that the statistical evidence, as so often, is far from convincing. No doubt this will cause apoplexy among statisticians who cannot allow emotion, sentiment or indeed gut feeling to cloud their work. So England have won five Test matches in a row, they hold the Ashes, they drew a series in South Africa. And still there are supposedly four better teams. Still, if they beat Pakistan 3-0, or 4-0, as seems probable, they will nudge ahead of Australia.

Make England grovel

Apologies have been distinctly slow in emanating from the England camp in the direction of the umpire Daryl Harper. Strange, since there ought to be not so much apologising as grovelling. In January, England made their disaffection clear to all and sundry when the South Africa captain, Graeme Smith, was given not out on 15, saved by the Decision Review System although it seemed to indicate that he had hit it, and went on to make 105. England, who went on to lose the Test by a mile, not only made a formal complaint to the ICC but also through their coach, Andy Flower, and the ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, made it clear that they thought Harper, the third umpire for the match, had messed up. Flower said at the time: "I'm not surprised he didn't hear it because he didn't have the volume turned up on his speaker." Clarke, in a hastily convened press conference in which he castigated the entire review system, backed Flower unequivocally. An exhaustive ICC investigation into the incident reported last week. It found that there was no evidence to support the complaint, that Harper had followed the correct protocol and that any suggestion he had failed to turn up the volume was "both manifestly wrong and entirely unfair". Harper's exoneration could hardly be clearer.

Grounds for concern

Edgbaston is patently unfit for purpose for the staging of a Test match. Never mind what Elf 'n' Safety says, the Department of Common Sense is quite clear on the matter. The ground is under reconstruction, the players have no proper changing rooms, they are living cheek by jowl with the press and public. Still, despite all evidence to the contrary and the presence only of a shell, it remains the Pavilion End.

Gordon's alive

Norman Gordon was 99 on Friday. The death last week of Eric Tindill at 99 years and 226 days has conferred on Gordon the peculiar birthday present of being the oldest surviving Test cricketer, the only one living to have played Tests before World War Two. The South African fast bowler played five Tests against England in 1938-39 and took 20 wickets.