Friday, January 16, 2009

Sachin trips on ranking disorder

NOT FOR the first time, Sachin Tendulkar's absence from a list of rankings has caused a controversy. The ICC, who employed statistician David Kendix to come up with a system that quantified performances, has found itself in the midst of a media storm.

But two things should be made clear. Firstly, these rankings are not new; they are at least five years old and were only highlighted recently as Matthew Hayden, who is in the Top 20, announced his retirement. Secondly, these rankings do not aim to assess a player's overall career. So, no, the rankings do not say that Hayden's presence in the Top 20 mean he is a better player than Tendulkar.

So what do these rankings do? "The rankings give an indication of how players peaked during their careers but do not give a full picture of those players' level of consistency or longevity in the game," said an ICC spokesperson.

The rankings simply measure the peaks in a player's career. "For example, a batsman or a bowler who averages 700 ratings points for most of his career, apart from a purple patch where he shoots up to 900, before dropping again may be ranked higher on the all-time ratings," explained the ICC.

"But that does not mean he should necessarily be considered better than a player who hovered around the 850-point mark for his entire career." When the likes of Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Wally Hammond and Greg Chappell do not make the cut, all it means is that they did not have as purple a patch as those in the top 20.

As the ICC themselves put it: "The 'best-ever ratings' are effectively snapshots of greatness. When it comes to judging a player's greatness over his career, one has to look at his entire graph." In other words, don't take them too seriously. They're good for some idle discussion, some vacant arguments about who's better than whom but not when it comes to actually valuing a player's worth.

If Tendulkar does not figure in the Top 20, it's not so much a reflection on his place in cricket's pantheon. No-one can take away 28,851 international runs and 83 centuries.

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