A series triumph over South Africa will not just consolidate India’s number one status in the ICC rankings, but will also win the team USD 175,000 as prize money and the coveted Test Championship mace.
“Whoever finishes top will win the annual USD 175,000 prize while Australia could yet finish second by the annual cut-off date (April 1) and pocket USD 75,000,” the ICC said in a statement.
Apart from this, Indian opener Gautam Gambhir and South Africa captain Graeme Smith will battle out for the number one batting position.
India lead South Africa by four ratings points and the home side will drop to second if the Proteas win the series by 1-0 or better margin.
India though need to draw the series to retain the number one position and the mace, which it had snatched from South Africa on December 6 after defeating Sri Lanka 2-0.
Although Bangladesh will host England and Australia will travel to New Zealand for two Tests series before the April 1 cut-off date, the result of these two series will have no impact on the number one position.
If South Africa beats India 1-0, it will go to 123 ratings points and India will drop to 122 ratings points. In case of a 2-0 win, the Proteas will rise to 125 ratings points and India will drop to 120 ratings points.
On the other hand, if India wins the series 1-0 or better, it will not only finish on top of the table but also bring Australia in contention for a cash award of USD 75,000 which will be presented to side that finishes second on the table.
While a 1-0 win will lift India to 127 ratings points and push South Africa to 118 ratings points, the Proteas will drop to 116 ratings points if they lose both Tests.
As such, South Africa’s series loss by whatever margin will give Australia a sniff of the number two position. Ricky Ponting’s side currently sits on 116 ratings points and will rise to 117 ratings points if it beats the Blackcaps 1-0, but will jump to 119 ratings points if it wins both matches.
While India and South Africa will be fighting hard for top spot, there are a few very interesting individual battles on the cards as well.
In the player rankings for batsman, if Gambhir struggles for runs and Smith manages to shine with the bat, there is a strong possibility that there’ll be a change at the top.
However, if Gambhir succeeds in showing glimpses of his 2009 form which won him the ICC Test Player of the Year award in Johannesburg last year, he could well become the 25th batsman overall to reach the 900-point mark which, in ranking terms, is the benchmark for top batsmen.
Sachin Tendulkar is the other batsmen who will be keeping an eye on a place in the top five. He currently occupies the ninth position but there are just 33 points separating him from fifth-placed Michael Clarke of Australia.