Big fuss about nothing over the ICC all-time rankings

Cricket’s penchant for ridiculous rows has emerged again in the past week after a spectacular loss of perspective by mainly Indian followers and ex-players. Now I know you are not supposed to criticise anything to do with India in the modern game so I will be very careful. It revolves around the announcement that, in a list of the all-time greatest batsmen judged by highest number of career ranking points at a given point, Matthew Hayden would be number 10 and Sachin Tendulkar number 26.

“No hard feelings, mate”

This is actually quite an interesting statistic but is so palpably not a reflection on the greatness of the two players (or indeed any player on the list) that it is barely worth commenting on. However, plenty of people have chosen to do just that, getting the serious hump over how India’s favourite son could be so hard-done-by.

Take the list in context. Firstly, it was released by the ICC merely as a point of interest on Hayden’s retirement. And it is only a point of interest because, despite it, nobody really believes Hayden was the tenth best batsman of all time. If he were, then the list would not be in the slightest bit interesting. Secondly, and more importantly, the list is not designed to show who is the greatest player. It merely reflects who has hit an incredibly rich vein of form at some point in their career.

At his absolute peak, Hayden earned more ranking points than Tendulkar. So what? Hayden’s peak lasted 2 or 3 years, Tendulkar has barely fallen from his illustrious standards for 15-20 years. He has the most runs, the most centuries and is named by almost every top modern bowler as the best they have faced alongside Brian Lara. Nobody argues with those lists, even though Don Bradman is the superior of both.

But the point is, instead of ignoring it or just nodding and saying ‘that’s odd/interesting’ and thinking no more about it, the vehement Indian protesters, some of whom have managed to extend it into an insult to their entire country, have inadvertently given the list a degree of legitimacy. If it is worth getting riled up about it must be important, right?

Well no. It is merely an interesting statistic which shows the quirkiness of the rankings and also that in his pomp, Hayden was a truly fantastic player. But nobody thinks that he is the 10th best of all time, still less that Kumar Sangakkara is the 6th best. Some have said that the ICC released it in an insensitive manner but that is ridiculous. Should they really have to tread on eggshells to accommodate the over-sensitivity and lack of perspective of some? I for one do not think so.

by Stuart Peel

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