India will have an opportunity to climb to second position of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test rankings when they take on South Africa in the four-match series which starts in Mohali on Thursday.
However, climbing to the summit will not be easy for the fifth ranked Indians. Trailing top ranked South Africa by a fraction of a point, the hosts will have to win all four Tests.
On the other hand, South Africa will vault to 130 points and India will plummet to 96 points if the visitors win all four Tests.
The Test rankings may undergo several changes as Australia, who currently hold the second spot on the table, host sixth-ranked New Zealand in a three-match series, including the first-ever day/night Test in Adelaide.
With third-ranked England and fourth-ranked Pakistan, battling for supremacy in the ongoing Sharjah Test, the top six sides in the Test arena are separated by just 26 points on the ICC Test Championship table.
If Pakistan wins the final Test, then they will move marginally ahead of Australia into second place for the first time in nearly a decade, while England will drop behind New Zealand to the sixth position by a fraction of a point. In the case of England winning the Test, both sides will retain their pre-series rankings and points.
The Test Championship table will then be updated at the end of Australia-New Zealand series, which means Australia will have to win the series by 1-0 or better to ensure it stays ahead of Pakistan (if Pakistan wins 2-0). In this series, Australia can rise to as high as 110 points, but can also drop to as low as 99 points.
In contrast, New Zealand will gain seven points if it wins 3-0 but will slip to 94 points if Australia sweep the series.
The next update of the ICC Test Championship table will take place following the conclusion of the India-South Africa series.
The ICC Test Player Rankings are also up for a major reshuffle as the bulk of the star performers will be in action over the next few weeks.
India captain Virat Kohli is his side’s highest-ranked batsman at the 13th position. Cheteshwar Pujara (19th) and Murali Vijay (20th) are the only other Indian batsmen inside the top 20.
Although the Test player rankings will be updated following the conclusion of the Sharjah Test, England’s Joe Root currently occupies the coveted number-one spot with Australia captain Steven Smith in second, just three points behind.
Root and Smith have been involved in the fight for the number one slot since the Trent Bridge Test. And because there is such a small gap between the two batsmen, neither of them has been able to retain the slot for an extended period of time.
With Root left with just one innings in the ongoing series, Smith has an opportunity to not only leapfrog Root but also create some daylight as he has six innings in hand.
Breathing down the throats of Root and Smith are the South African duo of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, who are separated by just nine points, with teammate Faf du Plessis sitting in 16th spot.
Kane Williamson (seventh) of New Zealand and Australia’s David Warner (ninth) are the other batsmen inside the top 10 with Black Caps’ Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum in 13th and 15th positions respectively.
Star South African fast bowler Dale Steyn is numero uno among the bowlers. The Proteas also boast Vernon Philander (seventh) and Morne Morkel (11th) inside the top 20 with Imran Tahir at the 59th spot.
For India, Ravichandran Ashwin (eighth) and Ishant Sharma (19th) are inside the top 20. The next highest ranked bowler is Ravindra Jadeja at the 30th spot, followed by Amit Mishra (38th), Umesh Yadav (42nd) and Varun Aaron (86th).
The New Zealand batsmen will face a real challenge in the three-Test series as five Australia bowlers feature inside the top 20. These include Mitchell Johnson (sixth), Peter Siddle (13th), Josh Hazlewood (16th), Nathan Lyon (17th) and Mitchell Starc (20th).
Fifth-ranked Trent Boult will spearhead New Zealand’s bowling attack, which also includes Tim Southee (10th), Mark Craig (39th) and Doug Bracewell (40th).