Top of the test tree
The chase will be on for ranking points this summer as far as test cricket is concerned. Generally I am not a great believer in the ranking system either from a team or an individual point of view on the world stage. There are so many variables involved that in my view the system is not always a fair reflection of the true quality of a team or an individual
However when I look at the current points standings for test cricket, it does paint the correct picture. The Proteas are way out in front on 135 points. Few would disagree that the South African test team is the best in the world by some margin at the moment. After a quiet period as far as test cricket is concerned, the Proteas will play three test series over the next few months.
Ranking points will be up for grabs for the Proteas to further cement their spot at the top. They will be chased by England and India who are both on 116 points.
Initially England will be in a good position to gain points in the return leg of the Ashes in an away series for them. It is always good to win away as far as ranking points are concerned. Australia, who have dropped to fifth in the rankings behind Pakistan, are unlikely to regroup in time to beat England at home.
The series between South Africa and India will be the one that may well determine the holder of the No 1 spot in the test arena for a while. India face a massive challenge in South Africa. They have never toured successfully here but an unlikely victory over the Proteas will catapult them up the points ladder.
The good thing from a South African point of view is the fact that after the India series, the Proteas take on Australia at home. Unless a miracle happens for the Aussies and they improve beyond expectation, South Africa will make up points against them at home.
A realistic appraisal of the situation is that the Proteas should easily maintain their lead at the top of the table. They face a relatively difficult series in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan under conditions which may well favour the Pakistan team, but after that, they will be back at home for two high-profile test series.
That is when the well balanced South African test side will be at their best. I would back the Proteas to still be at the top of the tree in test cricket in eight months time.