Domination in ODIs a thing of the past
First, it was current No. 1 India, who lost to Pakistan (No. 6) at home, followed by third-ranked Australia, who fought hard to just level a series with visitors Sri Lanka. Then it was the turn of hosts South Africa to lose a three-match series to lower-ranked New Zealand.
Not surprisingly, India, South Africa and Australia were labelled easy “favourites” in those encounters but the results, which also took the pundits by surprise, are proof of the growing competition in ODI cricket.
There were several factors which worked in unison to produce those turnarounds.
Numerous changes in the rules, governing the ODIs, have made it difficult for captains to stick to a consistent plan. The changes have instead put the onus on teams to experiment, which has often rewarded the lesser sides.
Also, no team seems to have mastered the new rules, including the Decision Review System.
Most of the higher ranked teams are in a re-building phase now, with senior players making way for younger talent, and it has reflected in their recent performances.
The Proteas are beginning to imagine life without their ace all-rounder Jacques Kallis. India are trying to do without Sachin Tendulkar, who recently retired from the ODI format, and out-of-form Virender Sehwag.
Australia, for their part, are keen to emerge from absence of recently-retired stalwarts Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.
England, still unsure of their core group in ODIs, are experimenting with various combinations in their bid to find a more aggressive unit.
Pakistan’s performances have improved but their ability in foreign conditions is always in doubt.
With such fluidity at the top of the rankings, the likes of West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka have a chance to climb up the ladder. Bangladesh aren’t way behind them either.
There is an air of uncertainty in ODIs now and it’s a situation fans have longed for. There is little meaning to the rankings now.
It’s also working wonders for the International Cricket Council, who are desperate to revive the 50-over version and have a chance since all teams seem equal – at least for now.