The ICC has confirmed what most of us suspected all along — rankings are rubbish. The issue is not of Sachin Tendulkar’s position in the latest rankings grabbing the headlines but the concept itself.
It is ridiculous to place Sachin below Matthew Hayden and Kumara Sangakkara, for example. He is better than Brian Lara and far superior to the likes of Mike Hussey and Kevin Pietersen. There is no need for a computer to tell us something different.
There is a larger issue too. Is there a proper measure of greatness? Can genius be judged, rated and compared? This looks impossible because it is difficult to compare a No. 5 batsman to a No. 3. How good each is depends on many factors, among them being the state of the game, team strategy and the quality of bowling. Such an exercise across generations becomes even trickier. Don Bradman is the all-time star but cricket then was a bit of a picnic. Old footage shows Bradman batting on 250, smashing boundaries, but still surrounded by five close-in fielders. Cricket has moved on. It is much more intense and competitive. Would Bradman, despite his rare talent and undisputed genius, score 29 hundreds in 52 games, and average close to 100 even today? Unlikely.
So, how do we decide which player is good, and how one is better than the other? The problem with rankings is players are not on an equal footing. A comparison between Herbert Sutcliffe, Sir Gary Sobers and Sachin can only be a joke. It is only in golf that an absolute worth of a player is possible because scores and statistics provide an accurate indication of how good one is. A club golfer, depending on his score, knows exactly where he stands in comparison to Tiger Woods!
Whatever the inherent flaws, there is an element of excitement about rankings. Similarly, people will speculate about who stands where and occupies what slot in cricket’s all-time ladder of greatness.
From our perspective, the top position is taken. Sachin’s record is such that there is no room for debate.