The International Cricket Council's ranking system is probably as complex as the theory of eternal recurrence. But despite all the flak it draws nobody can ignore the ranking system.
Going by the prevalent system, India team are in serious danger of losing their No. 1 ranking at the end of their ongoing series against Sri Lanka. To avoid losing their top status that they have retained since last December, India must avoid a 2-0 scoreline or worse.
If the series ends 1-0 or even 2-1 in Sri Lanka's favour, India will retain their spot at the top.
A 2-0 victory margin will see Kumar Sangakkara's men, ranked No. 4 at present, topping Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men by a solitary rating point. But if India win at least one of the two Tests to be played in Colombo over the next two weeks, they will retain their top spot, irrespective of the outcome of the series.
Minutes after taking a lead in the series with a 10-wicket victory in the first Test on Thursday, Sangakkara had implicitly questioned the ranking system. “Rankings need to be fair. A fair FTP (Future Tours Programme) is the way forward,” the Sri Lankan skipper said. “If rankings can't be understood by players and the public, then what's the use of it? The ICC should consider playing a Test Championship. Once every two years, each side should play all opposition at least once, either home or away. That's a fair deal when it comes to Tests.”
Dhoni, on the other hand, played safe when asked about their top ranking being in danger. “We will take care of the game, the ratings will take care of themselves,” he said.
In a way, the rankings angle has ensured that the series will be closely-fought till the last ball. Since the ICC updates rankings at the end of every series, even if Dhoni's men concede the series by losing the second Test, they will have plenty to play for in the last match to save their No 1 spot. If it ends 2-0, however, and Sri Lanka finish on top, will Sangakkara still be complaining about the system?