Dubai: The Virat Kohli-led side will aim to, at least, draw the upcoming five-match series against England in order to seal their number-one ranking at the end of the year.
In this scenario, India (currently with 115 points) will finish on 113 points and will, thus, be untouchable even if Australia bounces back to win the remaining two Tests against South Africa or Pakistan wins both the Tests against New Zealand.
The top four-ranked Test sides are separated by just 10 points and as these four sides are already or preparing to flex their muscles in the purest format of the game, changes in the upper half of the draw are on the cards depending on how the upcoming series pan out.
A 3-2 series win will lift India to 116 points, a 4-1 series win will put it on 119 points and it will jump to 122 points in case of a 5-0 win.
Similarly, the incentive for Alastair Cook’s side, currently with 105 points, is equally high as it will be aiming to move up the order. A 3-2 series win will put them on 108 points, while a 4-1 series win will mean it will move ahead of India to 110 points.
In the ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen, England’s Joe Root and India’s Ajinkya Rahane will start the series as their sides’ highest-ranked batsmen. Root is third, just seven points behind second-ranked Kane Williamson of New Zealand, while Rahane is fifth, nine points behind Root.
Other batsmen inside the top 20 and aiming for upward movement include Alastair Cook (11th), Cheteshwar Pujara (13th), Kohli and Jonny Bairstow (joint-15th), while notable batsmen outside the top 20 are Murali Vijay (25th), Moeen Ali (32nd) and Ben Stokes (40th).
In the ICC Player Rankings for Test Bowlers, India’s Ravichandran Ashwin leads the field by a distance. The off-spinner is the only bowler touching the 900-point mark, which, in ranking terms, is considered as outstanding.
The opening Test, which will be played from Wednesday in Rajkot, will also be a big occasion for Stuart Broad, who is set to become England’s 14th player to complete a century of Tests.
In the absence of James Anderson, Broad will be his side’s highest-ranked bowler in fifth position, trailing his England team-mate James Anderson by 32 points.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja is the other India bowler to feature inside the top 20 in seventh position (16 points behind Broad), while England’s Chris Woakes is in 19th position.
Bowlers aiming to break into the top 20 include Stokes (21st), Ishant Sharma (23rd), Mohammed Shami (26th) and Steven Finn (29th).
Ashwin is also enjoying number-one position in the ICC Player Rankings for Test All-rounders. He is 133 points clear of Moeen Ali, who is ranked third.