India vs Australia: Two middling sides battle for pride

India and Australia will lock horns in a mouth-watering four-Test series starting in Chennai from Friday with one eye on the ICC Test Championship table.

Although South Africa has already sealed its position as the number-one ranked Test side at the 1 April cut-off date with which it has not only retained the Test mace but has also been assured of a reward of US$450,000, a further US$750,000 is still up for grabs. This money will be distributed to teams that will finish second (US$350,000), third (US$250,000) and fourth (US$150,000) on the Championship table at the cut-off date.

As such, India and Australia, as well as second-ranked England, which will take on New Zealand in a three-Test series from 6 March, will be aiming to collect points from their respective series which can help them win the increased incentive in the form of prize money which was approved by the ICC Board in 2012 and was aimed to promote Test cricket in the period before the ICC Test Championship event in 2017.

Sachin is still India's best. PTI

Sachin is still India's best. PTI

Australia is currently ranked third and leads fifth-ranked India by 12 ratings points. However, this could potentially change, depending how the series pans out.

To be guaranteed second position on the Test Championship table at the 1 April cut-off date, Australia needs win the series 2-0 or better. If Australia wins 2-0 and England beats New Zealand 3-0, then both Australia and England will be locked at 119 ratings points but Australia will be ranked above England when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point.

As far as India is concerned, it can move ahead of Pakistan and finish in fourth position at the 1 April cut-off date if it wins the series by 1-0 or better. To move ahead of Australia, India will lead to win all the four Tests of the series.

Meanwhile, both India and Australia boast only one batsman each inside the top 20 of the ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen.

Australia captain Michael Clarke is occupying second position, six ratings points behind South Africa’s Hashim Amla, while India’s Sachin Tendulkar is in 20th spot.

Batsmen aiming to break into the top 20 or improve their rankings include Virender Sehwag (22nd), Cheteshwar Pujara (24th), David Warner (25th), Virat Kohli (25th), Shane Watson and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (joint 36th), Phillip Hughes (44th), Ed Cowan (45th), Ravichandran Ashwin (46th) and Matthew Wade (51st).

In the ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers, Australia’s Peter Siddle is the highest-ranked bowler in fifth position, with fellow paceman Mitchell Johnson in 18th. For India left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha is in eighth spot and his fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is in 20th place.

Bowlers eyeing upward movement include Harbhajan Singh and Nathan Lyon (joint 25th), Ishant Sharma (32nd), James Pattinson (34th) and Mitchell Starc (40th).

The top two positions in the bowlers’ list are occupied by South Africa’s Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander while Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal is in third position.

In the ICC Player Rankings for Test all-rounders, third-ranked Shane Watson is only the player from either side in top five. The list is headed by Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan with Jacques Kallis second.

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