Too highly rated?

I see Kevin Pietersen has been knocked off the top spot in the ODIs by Ricky Ponting. Very difficult to argue with that – Ponting is surely the stand out batsman in both forms of the game. Looking at the other batting rankings, it is difficult to find fault, although on current form, Shiv Chanderpaul ought to be in the test top three at least. Also, I struggle to understand how Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t break into either top ten, while Hussey retains a top five place in both. He’s very good, granted, but is he top five?

Jason Gillespie

The bowlers are altogether more perplexing. For one, how can Shoaib Akhtar still be at number 10 in tests? He’s played four tests since the start of 2006 and taken only a handful of wickets. Maybe in the current game, not playing is the way to climb the rankings. Likewise, Jason Gillespie (22) is still deemed a better Test bowler than Lasith Malinga (28)!

Agreed, it must be difficult to devise a workable system. Also, stats don’t tell the full story. But things start to look decidedly suspect when you inspect the Best Ever Ratings, which is a list of players at their peak. Ponting at four is just about fair enough, given his recent dominance. However, Peter May above Viv Richards shows a flaw, while Matthew Hayden in the top ten is just crazy. KP (21) is one place higher than Sachin and two places higher than Wally Hammond. Enough said.

For the bowlers, I half expected to see the list packed high with bowlers of yesteryear, given how modern bowlers are meant to have struggled, but it does put Murali, McGrath, Pollock, Waqar and Warne in the top 15. Of course, Warne should be in the top three, if not top of the pile. Wasim Akram limps in at number 57 behind the likes of Ntini, Shoaib and Harmison, which doesn’t seem right.

That said, like most critics, I can’t think of a better way. There must be some bright spark at Cricinfo with a formula….?

The talent that lies within

I can’t remember who said it, but it was during Pakistan’s tour of England in 1996 when I heard the following uttered: “Pakistan are the most talented team in the world, and contain the richest abundance of natural talent anywhere in the world.” Something alone those lines, anyway.

It’s one of those sayings which sticks with you (and follows you, although hopefully not in the next few weeks!), and I’ve yet to find someone who can justify it, or qualify it. Yet something tells me it’s probably true, which leads me to ask: how and why aren’t Pakistan regarded as a serious world-beating threat? Why, if they have such rich seams of talent, are they so inconsistent and volatile? Why can’t Inzamam run between the wickets, and why has their fielding always been so crap?

In that 1996 tour, I saw players like Inzy, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis – and the spin twins of Saqlain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed (bowling Mushy). Actually, wrong tour Will – Saqlain didn’t play a Test, my mistake. Anyway, it’s understandable that a team can struggle to compete when they lose such greats as Wasim and Waqar (just look at the West Indies. Although their problems run deeper, and I don’t even begin to understand them) but a country that can produce such natural talent ought to succeed more than they have been.

The BBC went some way to explaining the problems a few weeks ago:

Bob Woolmer has at his disposal a wealth of talent: prolific middle-order batsmen Younis Khan, Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf; a brilliant young leg-spinner in Danish Kaneria; and bowlers of searing pace in Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami.

Shoaib can be devastating – when he’s fit and the mood suits him

But getting all of those fit and mentally tuned in to perform in all three Tests will be Woolmer’s big challenge – quite often one department has fired, only to be let down by the other parts of the team.

Shoaib is a curious one. He has the ability, and bendy arm, to kill most batsmen if he so chooses. But he comes across as lazy, arrogant, unfit and superior to the game. He’ll play if he wants, when he wants.

Even when Wasim and Waqar were squashing batsmen’s toes at will, the question as to “which team will turn up?” hovered over the Pakistan team, and I don’t think it’s lifted to this day. Which side will turn up against England?