Dubai/Nagpur, Feb.4 (ANI):The battle for supremacy atop the Reliance Mobile ICC Test Championship table will come to a head in India over the next fortnight with the home side putting its mace on the line and South Africa primed to take possession.
In addition, there is the not insignificant matter of the annual 175,000-dollar prize on offer to the side reaching the 1 April cut-off date in top spot. With no other team capable of achieving premier position in time, this two-match series has the added context of effectively being a world championship decider.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side enters the series in number-one position, leading Graeme Smith's side by four ratings points. But the home side will drop to second if the Proteas win the series by 1-0 or better.
India just needs to draw the series to retain the number-one position and the mace which it had snatched from South Africa on 6 December after defeating Sri Lanka by 2-0.
Although Bangladesh will host England and Australia will travel to New Zealand for two Tests series before the 1 April cut-off date, the result of those two series will have no impact on the number-one position.
If South Africa beats India by 1-0, it will go to 123 ratings points and India will drop to 122 ratings points while 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 side of the coin, if India wins the series by 1-0 or better, it will not only finish on top of the table but will also bring Australia in contention for a cash award of 75,000 dollars which will be presented to side that finishes second on the table also at the cut-off date.
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 of that series.
Last year, the race for the Test Championship mace also went down to the wire with both Australia and South Africa entering into the final series before the cut-off date with just five ratings points separating them. On that occasion Ponting and his men prevailed, winning the series 2-1 and retaining possession of the coveted mace. (ANI)