In times past, who was the best team was more of a feeling than anything. In the 1970s and 1980s it was undoubtedly West Indies, then at some point Australia took over, and since the mid-2000s we haven’t quite been sure. Perhaps it is India? Perhaps England? What about South Africa? And we’re all a bit confused.
We now have three international formats instead of one, we are all the way up to 12 test teams. Though the two newest in Ireland and Afghanistan aren’t held in quite the same regard as the top 10. Then we’re still not sure about the two more recent ones before that in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. The latter of whom was banned from playing international cricket recently, for the second time, only to have the ban lifted a few months later.
With that in mind, here are my rankings:
Ireland were perhaps Test ready 10 years ago but since then they’ve dropped off considerably. They look unlikely to qualify for next year’s World T20, as they are considerably worse than the likes of Oman, UAE and Hong Kong. While ODIs are their best format, and they put in a good fight against England in a few tests, England were going in with second XIs so we can’t count it too much.
The world’s newest test team in Afghanistan are already ahead of Zimbabwe, who are just barely ahead of Ireland, though it would not be a total upset if Ireland beat them. Zimbabwe have the tiniest bit going for them in a handful of batsmen. A bit of a push occasionally at home, and they do sometimes do fairly well in T20Is, they are hanging onto international status with a hint of a hope. Though most people think that a team like Nepal or Scotland might be a better option, if only they had some consistency.
They look so good individually, with so many amazing players, like Rashid Khan who is the top or almost the top consistently in ODIs and T20Is. Then there is Mohammad Nabi and then there are batsmen and they are being picked up in T20 leagues and oh they could be so much better. Not that they are bad so much as they are inexperienced. They are still carrying a lot of players. But they are still on the way up so expect this ranking to improve.
Not much ahead of Afghanistan, Bangladesh gets the edge because of their home ground advantage which led them to beat Australia in a solitary test at home. They also beat Australia in an ODI once, something that Afghanistan have never done. While Bangladesh have Shakib al Hasan, the standard drops considerably afterwards, and they don’t have as many big players as Afghanistan. Just the same, they have a better team, perhaps due to experience, and they are on the way up. They just aren’t consistent.
8. Sri Lanka:
Not that Sri Lanka are terrible so much as they are in a bit of a rut. They are struggling to find enough players to fill the gaps. They do have their moments, but it’s just not consistent, and, in between their moments of adequacy, they have moments of utter horror.
7. West Indies:
West Indies are so skewed that a ranking is tough to get right. In T20Is they are world beaters, in ODIs they have moments of adequacy, and in tests they rarely do anything at all. It’d be easy to put them below Bangladesh and even Afghanistan but those few big times mean that West Indies are, overall, ahead, but not by much.
Pakistan have their moments and there are times when they are brilliant in tests, or in ODIs, or in T20Is, but just as often they are terrible. Their batting can be great at times, but then at other times it is awful, and overall their bowling is better. They are a great team to watch as a neutral, but frustrating, I have heard, as a supporter.
5. South Africa:
Some teams are better than the sum of their parts, but South Africa are worse. They have great players right down the line, but they can’t pull it all together, not right now at least. They are still pretty good, though.
The batting rating might seem a bit high for Tests, but it’s probably on the low side for ODIs and especially T20Is, and this is an overall figure. Also, for Tests, we must not forget Steve Smith. As for the bowling, Australia have some of the best bowlers in the world with the best depth. Mitchell Starc holds the record for most ODI wickets in a World Cup, in the last World Cup, only to be dumped for the Ashes. That’s how good the bowling is. Australia’s best format is ODIs; their worst is T20Is, though they aren’t terrible in any format.
3. New Zealand:
Some teams do badly in spite of lots of big names, but New Zealand are the opposite. In spite of having just one big name in Kane Williamson, and seeming to carry a lot of players in both batting and bowling, they just keep winning. They came from nowhere to almost win the World Cup title, and many say that they should have won. Which is arguably all the more impressive given how much better than New Zealand the English team was. Don’t forget that they shocked India in the semi-finals too, a team that were shown to be far superior to New Zealand all tournament long right up until the rain came to force the match to be continued onto a second day.
England are just so consistent, with a full team that isn’t carrying anyone. They might be criticised for drawing the World Cup final but they were seriously good to get that far and have been very good for a very long time. The only major hole is that Joe Root is the 4th best of the Big four batsmen. If he managed to loose the shackles, the team would be at another level.
India have the best all-formats batsman in the world in Virat Kohli. One of the best bowlers in the world in Jasprit Bumrah. Two of the best all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin, and they have so many first-choice players that they are forced to leave out some really big names. Hardik Pandya, who would be a first-choice player in the Australian team, often doesn’t make the cut. The ODI world record holder for highest individual score in Rohit Sharma is a fringe player. Their greatest weakness is that they rely too much on Virat Kohli: their strength is that they have a player as good as that in the team. India do have an impenetrable fortress at home, especially in tests, and are considerably worse away, and let’s not forget about the pitch doctoring they and only they routinely do, especially in tests, if they think they might lose, but perhaps they would have won anyway, most of the time at least.