Are India really the best bowling unit in the world?

Channelling Russell Crowe from ‘A Beautiful Mind’, Adrian Meredith crunches the numbers and rates the batting and bowling strengths of each Test nation.

A few comments have come in lately suggesting that India are the best bowling unit in the world, so I thought to see if that was true, not by some arbitrary suggestion such as who they beat, the team’s ranking, or averages of bowlers this year, but based on something a bit more reliable: the official ICC ranking.

What I found is that South Africa, with Kagiso Rabada (1) and Vernon Philander (4) at the top, are easily the best bowling unit in test cricket, and Australia are 2nd, with Cummins (3) leading a team who have all 4 main bowlers all ranked in the top 20 in the world, the only team to be in that situation. India aren’t far behind in 3rd, with Ravindra Jadeja (6) the leading contender, followed by Ravichandran Ashwin (8), with Jasprit Bumrah (16) and Mohammad Shami (23) rounding out their top 4 bowlers, a team that could well have turned out for this test in Sydney, if not for injury to Ashwin.

I did a similar statistical analysis based on the top 7 best batting rankings for each country and found that India are 1st in batting, not in bowling, with Virat Kohli (1) and Cheteshwar Pujara (4) leading the charge with all of their top 7 ranked in the top 50 in the world, the only country to be in that position. Australia, in comparison, are way down in 6th place, with Usman Khawaja (11) the top-ranked Australian batsman and Shaun Marsh (36) the second-highest ranked Australian batsman, which is a distance behind. Curiously, if Steve Smith (3) and David Warner (6) could be considered, Australia would be ranked 3rd instead of 6th.

India, with the best batting line-up in the world and the 3rd best bowling line-up, up against Australia, with the 6th-best batting line up and the 2nd best bowling line-up were always a decent chance to win, but it would have been a very different story if Smith and Warner were playing, as then it’d be 1st and 3rd versus 3rd and 2nd, and in that situation the home ground advantage would probably have lifted Australia to not only a series win but, most likely than not, it would have been 4-0.

My calculations are at the bottom of this post, for those interested, but it is an interesting statistic that the absence of Smith and Warner make such a big difference to a side.

It also proves that, in spite of India’s recent improvements with bowling, they are still a better batting side than a bowling side, and they are not yet the best bowling side in the world, in spite of their claims.

In terms of official ICC test rankings, based on top 7 rated batsmen and top 4 rated bowlers, these are the best teams in each discipline:

1: India
2: New Zealand 
3*: Sri Lanka
4: South Africa 
5: England 
6*: Australia 
7: Pakistan 
8: Bangladesh
9: West Indies
10: Zimbabwe
11: Ireland 
12: Afghanistan

Note: *Australia would be ranked 3rd if Smith and Warner’s rankings were considered.

1: South Africa 
2: Australia 
3: India 
4: New Zealand 
5: England 
6: Pakistan 
7: West Indies 
8: Bangladesh 
9: Sri Lanka 
10: Zimbabwe 
11: Ireland 
12: Afghanistan


1: India:
Virat Kohli (1), Cheteshwar Pujara (4), Ajinkya Rahane (18), KL Rahul (32), Rishabh Pant (38), Shikhar Dhawan (43), Rohit Sharma (44)

2: New Zealand:
Kane Williamson (2), Nicholls (7), Latham (14), Ross Taylor (20), Watling (26), Raval (35), Santner (91)

3*: Sri Lanka: 
Karunaratne (9), Angelo Mathews (13), Chandimal (15), Mendis (16), Dickwella (47), Roshen Silva (54), Dhananjaya de Silva (55)

4: South Africa:
Dean Elgar (8), Hashim Amla (11), Markham (17), du Plessis (22), de Kock (24), Bavuma (31), Philander (68)

5: England: 
Joe Root (5), Jonny Bairstow (18), Jos Buttler (21), Ben Stokes (32), Sam Curran (39), Ben Foakes (51), Moeen Ali (58)

6*: Australia:
Usman Khawaja (11), Shaun Marsh (36), Tim Paine (45), Peter Handscomb (48), Travis Head (56), Matthew Renshaw (69), Mitchell Marsh (77)

7: Pakistan: 
Azhar Ali (10), Babar Azam (27), Asad Shafiq (29), Haris Sohail (40), Imam-ul-haq (85), Shan Masood (87), Sami Aslam (89)

8: Bangladesh:
Shakib al Hasan (23), Mominul Haque (28), Mushfiqur Rahim (29), Tamim Iqbal (34), Imrul Kayes (83), Liton Das (88), Soumya Sarkar (94)

9: West Indies:
Kraigg Braithwaite (33), Chase (46), Hetmeyer (52), Hope (53), Holder (58), Dowrich (60), Blackwood (73)

10: Zimbabwe:
Brendan Taylor (24), Masakadza (41), Ervine (56), Sikander Raza (62), Peter Moor (77), Williams (80), Chakabva (98)

11: Ireland:
Kevin O’Brien (71)

12: Afghanistan:
(no players in top 100)

Note: Steve Smith (3), David Warner (6) and Cameron Bancroft (64) do not count towards Australia’s rating as they are currently or recently banned. If they were included, Australia would be ranked 3rd in the world, with every other team moving down 1.


1: South Africa: 
Kagiso Rabada (1), Vernon Philander (4), Maharaj (22), Steyn (25)

2: Australia:
Pat Cummins (3), Josh Hazlewood (11), Nathan Lyon (14), Mitchell Starc (18)

3: India: 
Ravindra Jadeja (6), Ravi Ashwin (8), Jasprit Bumrah (16), Mohammad Shami (23)

4: New Zealand:
Trent Boult (7), Tim Southee (9), Wagner (15), de Grandhomme (48)

5: England: 
James Anderson (2), Stuart Broad (19), Moeen Ali (28), Ben Stokes (29)

6: Pakistan: 
Mohammad Abbas (5), Yasir Shah (12), Mohammad Amir (34), Wahab Riaz (37)

7: West Indies:
Jason Holder (10), Gabriel (13), Kemar Roach (24), Bishoo (35)

8: Bangladesh:
Mehidy Hasan (17), Shakib al Hasan (20), Taijul Islam (21), Mustafizur Rahman (54)

9: Sri Lanka:
Perera (25), Lakmal (31), Kumara (40), Pradeep (44)

10: Zimbabwe
Jarvis (42), Cremer (49), Williams (72), Sikander Raza (73)

11: Ireland: 
Murtagh (70), Thompson (88)

12: Afghanistan:
(no entries in the top 100)

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