The two lowest ranked Test nations currently are of course Zimbabwe and Bangladesh (actually Zimbabwe isn’t even on the charts at this point, but let’s say they are for the sake of argument.)
In 2010, Zimbabwe played zero Tests. In 2011, three; in 2012, one; and next year they are scheduled to play six.
In 2010, Bangladesh played seven tests. In 2011, five; in 2012, two; and next year they are also scheduled to play six.
Now, 2011 and 2012 were of course World Cup years, so I guess their boards and the ICC and the boards of other nations can be forgiven for the lack of Tests scheduled for the weakest among us, and next year, a non-World Cup year (however, there is the Champions Trophy) they each have six Tests scheduled, which is an improvement, but I still think the lack of Tests, and the gaps between Tests, is simply shameful.
In their only two Tests this year, against the West Indies, Bangladesh got shellacked. It was hard to watch. And this is a decent enough Bangladeshi one day side that beat the West Indies in the ODI series.
But in the Tests it was not even close, and for the ICC who is looking to grow their game globally, it is a problem. And why even bother promoting Ireland to full Test status when they probably won’t be playing more than one or two Tests a year anyway?
Look, I understand that there are scheduling conflicts and backroom politics that I will never even begin to fully comprehend; plus of course there is the IPL and the Champions League and other competitions that, you know, actually make money, but I really do think it is time for Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and even other consistently under-performing Test sides like Sri Lanka and the West Indies and New Zealand to greatly increase their Test schedules – even if it means blowing up the current FTP and starting from scratch – in order to make the game globally more competitive.
And this all rolls downhill: better Test sides make better one-day sides, so everyone wins.
Here’s the all the raw data from the last few years, for fun: (countries sorted by current ICC ranking):
And here it is in graph form, for fun (x axis is nations in descending order of current ICC ranking):
After India, the drop off is dramatic.
Now this could very well be a “which came first the chicken or the egg?” situation, but it is rather obvious: fewer tests mean a poorer ICC ranking.
So how do things look going forward?
Here is the raw data again, with 2013 matches included (more on that in a second):
I expect improvements, slight but improvements nonetheless, from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and New Zealand.
Regarding NZ, they are only playing one more Test in 2013 than they did in 2012, but it is still more than double the number they played in 2010, so I still expect an improvement in form, despite current, errrrr, difficulties.
All of the above is for fun, meant to be taken with a grain of salt.
Finding calendar year 2013 Tests was a vastly more difficult task than I thought it would be.
There is not a single good source out there that lists them all.
ICC’s Future Tours Programme is about as close as one gets but it is not divided into calendar years, it is clunky and difficult to navigate, and the data is not infallible, or all that reliable.
One quick example: they have a four Test series scheduled for February and March of this year, India versus Australia, in India.
The tour is not listed on Cricinfo. It is not listed on Cricket Australia’s website. It is not listed on BCCI’s website. The only place I could find it listed was on Willow.tv’s website, but they are not exactly the bastion of good information.
Subash over at the Cricket Couch talked to some pals of his in Chennai and confirmed the match there is happening in March, despite the fact that some sites I found had the matches happening in the West Indies (seriously.)
I think the mystery is solved in the last sentence of the above link: the schedule is not yet “declared” and then something something Cricket authority (lower case a).
I do think the series is of course actually going to happen, but it is just so utterly and completely ODD that there is not a good source that lists all upcoming matches in a clean, easy to navigate, format; one that includes not just matches in the next six months, but ALL scheduled Tests, ODIs, and T20s…
If this source already exists, please do let me know.
This is just another example of how bloody difficult it can be to be a cricket fan in 2012, despite all of our advances.