The sport’s traditionalists will have one eye on Asia where seven of the world’s proud Test playing countries will not only try to establish their dominance over their respective rivals, but will also aim to improve their rankings in the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s Test Team Rankings.
Bangladesh will play host to Zimbabwe and the Windies in a two-Test series each, England will travel to Galle for first of the three Tests against Sri Lanka, while the United Arab Emirates will be the stage for the three-Test series between Pakistan and New Zealand.
Virat Kohli’s India leads the Test team rankings, but only 11 points separate second-ranked South Africa from seventh-ranked Pakistan. This means there could be movement in the middle of the pack, depending on how the four series pans out.
Bangladesh can move ahead of the Windies in eighth place but to make that happen, they will have to win all the four Tests; England can rise to second, but will have to win the series; Sri Lanka can move ahead of fifth-placed Australia, but will have to win all the three Tests; New Zealand will rise to second irrespective of how Sri Lanka-England series ends if they sweep the three-Test series against Pakistan; while Pakistan can move ahead of Australia if they win 3-0.
The following are some permutations:
Bangladesh (67 points) v Zimbabwe (2 points)
• If Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe 2-0 – Bangladesh 68 points, Zimbabwe 0
• If series ends in a draw – Bangladesh 61 points, Zimbabwe 13 points
Bangladesh v the West Indies (76 points)
• If Bangladesh (68 points, following a 2-0 series win over Zimbabwe) beat the West Indies (76 points) 2-0, they will rise to 76 points while the West Indies will drop to 71 points
• If Bangladesh (68 points, following a 2-0 series win over Zimbabwe) draw with the West Indies, then Bangladesh will finish on 69 points while the West Indies will slip to 75 points
Sri Lanka (97 points) v England (105 points)
• If Sri Lanka beat England 3-0 – Sri Lanka (New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia will be on 102 points, Sri Lanka will ranked above Australia), England 100 points
• If Sri Lanka beat England 2-0 – Sri Lanka 101, England 101. England will be ranked above Sri Lanka
• If Sri Lanka beat England 2-1 or 1-0 – Sri Lanka 100, England (102, ahead of Australia by a fraction)
• If England beat Sri Lanka 3-0 – England 108 points (2nd), Sri Lanka 93 points
• If England beat Sri Lanka 2-0 – England 107 points (2nd), Sri Lanka 94 points
• If England beat Sri Lanka 2-1 or 1-0 – England 106 (2nd, ahead of SA by a fraction), Sri Lanka 95 points
Pakistan (95 points) v New Zealand (102 points) (team rankings will depend on how Sri Lanka-England series pans out as the Test table is updated at the end of a series)
• If Pakistan beat New Zealand 3-0 – Pakistan 103, New Zealand 94
• If Pakistan beat New Zealand 2-1 or 1-0 – Pakistan 99, New Zealand 98
• If Pakistan beat New Zealand 2-0 – Pakistan 101, New Zealand 96
• If New Zealand beat Pakistan 3-0 – New Zealand 109, Pakistan 89
• If New Zealand beat Pakistan 2-1 or 1-0 – New Zealand 105, Pakistan 92
• If New Zealand beat Pakistan 2-0 – New Zealand 107, Pakistan 90
Meanwhile, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and James Anderson of England will be the highest-ranked Test batter and bowler, respectively, who will be in action in the ICC’s pinnacle format this month.
Williamson is presently ranked third in the MRF Tyres ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen, but England captain Joe Root is narrowly behind him in fourth position.
Dimuth Karunaratne of Sri Lanka is his side’s highest-ranked batsman in seventh position, Azhar Ali is Pakistan’s highest-ranked batsman in 15th spot, Mushfiqur Rahim is Bangladesh’s highest-ranked batsman in the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, while Brendan Taylor is Zimbabwe’s highest-ranked batsman in 46th position.
The Sri Lanka versus England series opener in Galle will be Rangana Herath’s 93rd and final Test. The left-arm spinner had made his debut at the same venue against Australia 19 years ago and will enter in his final Test as his side’s highest-ranked bowler in seventh place. With 430 wickets, he is his country’s second most successful bowler after Muttiah Muralidaran.
After his spectacular performance against Australia last month, Pakistan’s Mohammad Abbas will be the other bowler to watch-out for this month. He is currently ranked third in the MRF Tyres ICC Player Rankings for Test Bowlers, but given he is still in the qualification period for bowlers, it is likely that he will move even further up the ladder depending on how he performs in the series.
New Zealand’s Trent Boult is sitting in sixth place and he will try to move ahead of fifth-ranked Ravinda Jadeja, who is 17 points ahead.
Mehedi Hasan will enter the Sylhet Test as Bangladesh’s highest-ranked bowler in 35th position.