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Sight Screen

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Up the down ladder

Was just checking the ICC website when I chanced on this -- the annual update of the ICC's Test rankings.
Very hard to quarrel with someone who rates India at number three, but putting patriotism aside for a moment, I'm damned if I understand this:
India lost three away series - to Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies - between 1 August 2001 and 31 July 2002. It therefore benefits by four points as a result of the update and its rating of 111 is the highest it has been since the new system came into force.
There is probably some convoluted mathematical explanation, probably coined by the direct descendant of Albert Einstein or some such, to explain this -- but speaking strictly as someone who saw math class as an opportunity to catch up on the latest movies, I must confess it is hard to choke back chuckles when someone says a team gains points by the simple expedient of losing three, count them, three, away series.
Damn -- almost makes losses worth tolerating; you think if we improve our loss quotient this season we can actually displace Australia next year this time?
Sheesh! I much prefer the Rediff ranking system, and this not because I am a Rediff-er, but because I have this (perhaps unnatural?) preference for sanity.


  • Prem, I think you probably misunderstood the ICC rating system.. They have the August 1 (must be the birthday of one of the statistician) deadline.. All the games played three years before August 1 of that year are not taken into account..

    What that meant was, before Aug 1, 2005, those three losses were counting on India so India had low score.. Now that they are gone, India's points have increased.

    Rediff too rates India at No. 3.

    By Blogger Raju, at 13:41  

  • Its all relative, Prem..

    Even in Rediff rating, Aus wont gain a single point by defeating Eng 4-1 in this Ashes. I have been trying to tell Mr. Srinivas Bhogle to give more weightage to the most recent matches but I think he is still working on it..

    My suggestion for Rediff rating would be: for one year duration, the test match wins would be 1/1... the ones played during the 1-2 years back time would be 1/2.. those played between 2-3 years back would be 1/3 and so on.. that way, the older matches lose their importance 'gradually' .. not like the ICC system suddenly throwing away all the results before the aug 1 deadline..

    By Blogger Raju, at 13:47  

  • Prem, you completely misunderstood their meaning. I also prefer Rediff's rating but the reason for that is not that ICC's rating is completely without rationale. What they meant was that India's three series losses are now outside the window of consideration, which means that their rating is now not affected by those losses, hence a higher rating. Similarly, unless india does spectacularly well this year, their rating will go down next year because their superb series against pakistan and australia will go outside the reckoning window next year.

    I hope I made it a little clearer rather than muddling it all up!

    (By the way, Rediff ratings also consider a window and hence a loss going out of the window also bumps a team's Rediff rating points.. the only difference is how they treat their reckoning window. Rediff has a running window that considers one home and one away series against every other team rather than considering all matches from August 1 of two years ago to present)

    By Blogger Rahul, at 13:48  

  • GP, good suggetion. Prima Facie at least, your suggestion of weighing the match results with their recency sounds reasonable. Even though I don't see why implementing it should be too difficult, I am sure there must be something about the resulting rankings/ratings that probably looks unreasonable, otherwise they'd have done it already.

    By Blogger Rahul, at 13:52  

  • I guess this all is due to Prem's current ailment :-)

    By Blogger LinkLover, at 13:52  

  • *grin* See? I knew there was a perfectly simple reason.

    Sorry, but I still must laugh.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 13:52  

  • Prem,

    IMHO, The ICC rankings are a hatchet job, as are the Wisden lists of great innings and such.

    I will direct my comments to the ICC ratings for the time being, considering u r addressing this issue:

    Quite amazing how England (Under Hussain in late 2003-early 04), after miserably being found out by the Aussies, were ranked 3rd and ultimately 2nd in test cricket. At the time, they had drawn SA, and beaten Bangladesh, WI and Zimbabwe. Speaking just for the results themselves, it looked impossible to make sense of their position in Test cricket ahead of SA and NZ.

    In ODI's, (late 2003-04), India had won the Natwest, reached the finals of the Champions trophy and the World Cup, yet were ranked some ways behind Australia/ England and New Zealand. To top it, it was NZ, England and SA that India thumped in all the aforementioned tournaments. In the ICC batsman ratings, Michael Vaughan had the benefit of one productive tour Down Under, and miraculously, was #1 for a fair amount of time. Conversely, Brian Lara and Rahul Dravid, possibly the most consistent of performers in test cricket over the past 3-4 years, had to perform streets ahead of the rest of the pack in several tours to get top billing, and it changed hands a few fair times. Rediff rankings are my preferred system also..

    By Blogger Mahesh, at 13:55  

  • Rahul: But more seriously -- India will, you notice, pay a price for not facing many high quality opponents this season, outside of England. Why India, any team is in the position of going down the rankings just when it is doing well.

    Why not the last three home and away series? Why an arbitrary date?

    Or consider this -- the ICC sets itself a five year calendar for Tests, which it is in fact supposedly thinking of upgrading to a six year calendar. But its ranking window is, what, one year? Two?

    How is that sensible? If your championship window is six years, should your ranking window not match it?

    Does that make for common sense, or should I go check my temperature again?

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 13:56  

  • Prem, you made me shudder and read my comment again. For a second there I thought I had ended up supporting ICC Ratings!! :) I did not. I understand your problem with the ICC time window, and I agree with that on that point. I only meant that the problem with ICC Ratings is not about losses ending up benefiting a team as you seemed to suggest. Their problem is (at least one of them) about this strange sudden shift of the window on August 1. Even if they wanted to keep a window, they could've counted the last 2 years at the point of rating calculation. Also, as you rightly point out, 2 years doesnt make any sense when the competition window is 5 or 6 years long. On the other hand, if they synchronize the two windows, there will be about 10 Ind-Pak, Ind-Aus and Aus-Eng series in there and maybe one little one-off test between Ind and Bangladesh. That is where Rediff Ratings score. However, as GP pointed out, there should be some recency weightage there.

    By Blogger Rahul, at 14:05  

  • Prem, some problems I'd see with a 5 year ranking window is that it wouldn't give too much value to current performance. For example if we were to have a 5 yr ranking period, then England, which I think we all agree is the true No. 2 team in the world right now, wouldn't be ranked that high because of dreadful series results in the early 2000s. Most likely South Africa on strength of their early 2000 form would be number 2.

    The ICC rankings give most weight to performances in the current year. The preceding two years are given less weightage until they are eventually dropped. 3 years I think is a decent time to take into account a team's current standings. By giving the current year most weightage, you allow for surges or drops in form but not to the extent that it doesn't reflect the true ability of the team.

    I think the main difference between the rediff and ICC ratings is that rediff gives weightage to away series and finals. The ICC sees all games as equal. This would be a point worth debating

    By Blogger Abe, at 14:11  

  • No matter what you try, ratings will always fall a bit short. For example, how would you suppress positive effect of wins in "dead rubber" ?

    By Blogger LinkLover, at 14:11  

  • Speaking of ratings, I'd like to know your opinions about player ratings. I used to follow cricket much more passionately (and insanely) some years ago as compared to now. At that time, when I could recite most cricket records and figures off the top of my head, I was amazed at the PWC ratings. They seemed to be ages ahead of any other player ratings. So much so that even an otherwise meaningless comparison of forms of players who used to play in completely different eras seemed to be very reasonable in PWC Ratings. Can't tell you how disappointed I was when PWC gave the reins of their ratings to ICC.
    Their ratings worked so well that at any given point you could directly use their ratings and form your world XI and more often than not any selector would've found it very difficult to argue against any of the selections.

    By Blogger Rahul, at 14:23  

  • Rahul -

    Yeah, I've always wondered why a similar system was not adopted for team rankings. The basic philosophy of PwC was quiet simple. Apart from all the other variables, each match is given 1% less weightage than the next one. Hence, there was no cutoff date, no "good results falling out" etc. Your entire career (and in case of teams, your entire test history), is ranked, with older results becoming less and less relevant as time goes on.

    Come to think of it, why would any ranking system in sports like cricket and soccer (which do not have set annual calendars) not use this philosophy ?

    By Blogger NB, at 14:43  

  • The thing with rankings is that whatever formula you come up with, there are going to be doubters. You could speak for the Rediff rankings and justify the allotments of points and weightings and such - just wish there was a spokesman for the ICC rankings who could take part in a debate about the formulation of their rankings.

    I would love to hear the pros and cons from the proponents, head-to-head.

    By Blogger RPM, at 14:45  

  • why do they dont players similar way??
    RD scored 200 agt aussy in aussy ok give him *1.5* same RD failed agnt aussy@home heyyy give him atleast 9,, ohh aussies lost to bangla give them 10, and yeaaah dilshan took 4@home give'm 2 and ohh if sends down maiden at away match give'm 9......

    By Blogger MAHER, at 15:02  

  • mahesh,

    The ICC players ratings are not just based on what the players did. (I don't know why this should be so). It is also based on the rating of the team and how it does in general. This team element is one of the components factored into the individual players rating. That is why Sachin in his peak or Dravid and Lara now can not top 900 points while Steve Waugh and all and sundry from Australia sky rocket in their individual ratings. Lara's best rating was also achieved when WI was a reasonably good team during his very early years.

    Due to this fact, I don't really like the ICC individual rating.

    Prem: May rediff should also devise an individual rating.

    By Blogger S Fernando, at 15:03  

  • fernando,

    i dont think so, lara,dravid,viru are all there at top

    By Blogger MAHER, at 15:05  

  • One other thing about this wierd system of ICC is that it is doubly unfair to the batsmen. If your team sucks and you still do well that means you performed against a better opponent. An Australian scoring a 100 against BD will get a better point average in the ICC rating than a BD batsmen scoring a 100 against the Aussies. How about that?

    By Blogger S Fernando, at 15:07  

  • maher,

    YOu have to go and see the basis of the rating system then you will know. Just check how many guys have gone above 900 in points rating. And see their performance during that time period to validate. I had done this research only after seeing this anamoly for a long time. RD, Lara and VS are there at the top now because they have done exceptionaly well. However, an Australian can make it to the top with a slightly lesser effort. That is how it works!

    By Blogger S Fernando, at 15:10  

  • Fernando, I don't know which ICC ratings you are talking about. If it is the same that used to be PWC ratings, then you've got it wrong. the weightage that a performance gets does not depend on how good the players own team is. The weightage depends on the opposing team's rating, the overall performance of everybody in the match (for example a low scoring match overall will mean tough conditions for batting and would lead to higher weightage for batting performances) and also the result. So, a good performance in a winning effort is worth more points than a good performance in a losing effort. This last point is what I am slightly uncomfortable with. Even though it seems reasonable when you see a Jadeja scoring a 100 when the match is already almost lost and there's not much pressure on him, it seems distinctly unfair for an innings like Sachin's chennai 136 against pakistan when india managed to conjure a defeat even though it was an all-time great innings.

    By Blogger Rahul, at 15:14  

  • rahul,

    I completely agree. Yes, I was talking about the 'win bonus' component of the rating only. Like you have mentioned, a BD guy who battles it out against the Aussies would get less merit than an Aussie guy who scored against BD, just because he happened to be on a really good team!


    By Blogger S Fernando, at 15:24  

  • This problem of what window to choose exists in several other sports. For example, both tennis and chess have a one-year window. And, maybe it does make a little bit of sense there as most tournments are held annually.

    I guess instead of putting in a strict window, it is best to use weights which exponentially fall off over time. But, then that brings up the question of at what rate should the weights fall off :D

    By Blogger Harsha V. Madhyastha, at 15:38  

  • Fernando, the win bonus is not in isolation. It exists along with the opposing team strength factor. So, if a Habibul Bashar scores 110 against australia in a match in which Ricky Ponting also scores exactly 110 and australia wins the match, HB will gain more rating points than RP because the difference in the strengths of Aus and Bang team will more than compensate for the winning bonus. You might argue about relative sizes of the bonuses but the idea itself is sound. As for the relative strengths, that is not something many people can agree about anyway. As far as I am concerned, the final rating points seem extremely reasonable and in this case end justifies the means..

    By Blogger Rahul, at 15:47  

  • Rahul, by next year when ICC reviews its rating, it takes out the 2002-'03 season.. in which India drew England, beat WI and lost to NZ.. so probably wont be much different.. The Aus and Pak wins would still be considered..

    But, in the rediff rating, our Pak wins would have gone, since one new Ind vs Pak in Pak would have taken place.. Anything worse than a 2-1 win will lower our points..

    And Mr. Srinivas once mentioned to me that it takes a bit of time and effort to set the software take care of recency.. remember there are about 150 match results to be taken care..

    By Blogger Raju, at 16:09  

  • GP, I knew someone is going to catch that one!!! :D

    as for Pak series, don't worry. we are winning 3-0 this time! (just talked to Lele on phone!) :)

    By Blogger Rahul, at 16:15  

  • Rahul, when did Lele become a Pakistani citizen? :-)

    By Blogger Raju, at 16:48  

  • Oh you're being harsh on him... he doesn't have anything against his team. He just happens to know how to read the stars.. :)

    By Blogger Rahul, at 17:08  

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