Will India as No.1 team prove the tonic for test cricket?
India’s crushing 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka to become the number one ranked test team for the first time has triggered huge celebrations across the cricket-crazy nation.
The hosts, ranked number three, leapfrogged leaders South Africa and the second-ranked Sri Lanka to become the first team other than Australia or the Proteas to head the list.
In an ideal world, the development in the game’s global commercial hub should work wonders for the classical format, overshadowed by both the limited-over formats, especially after the rise of Twenty20. India owes its current commercial clout to the shock World Cup win in 1983 which particularly turned the 50-over game into a cash cow.
The influential Indian board also successfully launched the franchise Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament in 2008.
Leading players worldwide are clear about their priority, vociferously backing tests as the ultimate challenge.
India’s consistency is reflected in the captaincy record of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, seven wins in his unbeaten 10-game tenure. The impressive win over Sri Lanka showed millions of fans still emotionally follow the fortunes of the test team.
However, India looks unlikely to cash in and the crown looks set to slip in the new year due to a lack of tests following a skewed schedule agreed by the national board. The Sri Lanka series was India’s first for seven months, since they won 1-0 in New Zealand In April.
In the next six months, their only competition will be against the bottom-ranked Bangladesh. Leading batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Vangipurappu Laxman – the last two play only tests – thus will not see much action in the twilight of their India career.
Will India’s number one ranking revive test cricket or will the long gap before the next big series kill the excitement?
PHOTO: Indian players walk back to the pavilion after winning the third test cricket match against Sri Lanka in Mumbai December 6, 2009. India won the three test cricket match series against Sri Lanka by 2-0. REUTERS/Arko Datta