Pakistan rise to No. 1 in Cricket Test rankings is nothing short of a miracle..

It just happened as India could not win against the hapless West Indies due to rain and poor ground management. Pakistan edged India by 1 point to top the Test match rankings first time since these rankings were made in 2003.

I mean to see Pakistan top the rankings is just crazy and a miracle. The country does not anymore host test matches at home and the entire cricket structure is just reduced to a royal mess. Despite this they have been producing is a few talented individuals who spice the contest once a while. And now they have surged to top position drawing with England in England against all odds. They have done this with lot of discipline and dignity which makes it a super plus. These two attributes have missed Pakistan cricket for a long time.

Here is a wonderful tribute by Kamran Abbasi who shows how high these odds have been making the achievement even more amazing. (He also highlights that Hockey World Cup was actually an idea from Pakistan).

But the top spot is fully deserved. Consider Pakistan’s political environment. Consider the alarming decline in sport – and the multi-factorial circumstances that contribute to it. Consider the failure in limited-overs cricket. Consider six years of exile in the UAE, and no home Tests for six years. Consider an international game designed for the Big Three – who now all sit immediately below Pakistan. Consider the outsider, the nomad, the unwanted guest, spoiling that party thanks to the determination of a few good men.

Some people will begrudge Pakistan this moment, highlighting the peculiarities of the Test ranking system. They shouldn’t. The rankings are worked out consistently for all teams, whatever you think of the method of calculation.

Some people will ask: where are the wins in Australia and South Africa? They shouldn’t. No. 1 isn’t to be confused with all-conquering. Only a few teams in cricket history were all-conquering, the others, the vast majority, merely made it to the top despite failing in certain places.

Some people will bemoan the fickleness of the weather and the inadequacy of Caribbean ground preparations. They shouldn’t. Yes, this is bad luck for India, but cricket is a game of luck – and Pakistan need all the luck they can get.

Indeed, a Pakistan team has never appeared more worthy of good fortune since the Test rankings were launched in 2003. If the rankings are extrapolated back to the 1950s, Pakistan were briefly top only once before, in 1988, to break up a decade of domination by the greatest West Indies team. Then we guessed at Pakistan’s status. Nobody else went so close against those phenomenal cricketers.

In 2016, though, we don’t need to guess. Pakistan are the world’s leading Test team. They are top – and they earned it. The players didn’t have it easy. Nobody did them any favours other than the rain gods of Port-of-Spain. They did it with grit and bloody-mindedness. They also did it with talent and some exceptional performances in England, Sri Lanka and UAE. They did it for the people of their country and for pride in a nation that they still believe in. They did it to show what Pakistan can be.

He says Pak should have topped T-20 rankings as it favored them but they topped Test match ranking which is so unlikely. There were couple of architects. The appointment of Misbah ul Haq as the captain is the biggest achievement of Pak cricket board:

How did Test cricket defy the ravages of modern times, the odds of war and conflict, of politics and nepotism, of corruption and incompetence, of unprofessionalism and mismanagement? Let’s be in no doubt, the same decline hit Test cricket that destroyed all other sports after the 1990s. The spot-fixing scandal of 2010 simply hastened the end, putting us out of our misery. If anything was to survive that disaster it was to be the thrash and crash of limited overs. Not Test cricket. That would die.

Except, some people weren’t prepared to accept that fate. They saw the end and vowed to defeat it. They were dreamers but they dreamt a pragmatic dream. They dreamt of giving their nation some succour from the ravages of this tortured age. They would achieve it through unfashionable hard work and integrity. Even in exile, they wanted to be a beacon of hope and a promise of something better.

Chief among them is Misbah-ul-Haq, the architect of this triumph. Perhaps the greatest ever achievement of the Pakistan Cricket Board was to make Misbah Test captain after 2010, narrowly followed by its decision to leave him in charge for the next six years. The PCB got those epoch-making decisions right, Misbah did the rest.

Misbah’s captaincy works because of simple virtues. First, he has a clear plan of how he wants to set his team up and how he wants to win. This might be too defensive for some people’s tastes, too slow-burn, too patient, but Misbah knows how to make his plan work.

Second, he leads by example, whether it’s how to approach the game and the distractions that come with it or how to make the most of your talents.

The power of role models is a strong theme in Pakistan cricket. Misbah is rivalling Imran Khan as heroic leader, although Misbah’s leadership comes with greater measure and an icier cool.

Third, Misbah is pragmatic, never looking too far ahead or setting unachievable goals. On first impressions he is inscrutable, but he is a deep thinker on the game, a student of cricket. None of this comes with bombast or hyperbole. The art of understated determination is perfected in him.

Misbah has an ideal accomplice in Younis Khan, a world-class batsman hungry to leave his mark on the game but imbued with the same conviction and integrity. The final Test, at The Oval, perfectly captured the partnership of Misbah and Younis. Misbah’s best laid plans were unworkable without Younis’ brilliance. If Misbah is the architect, Younis is his master builder.

Another Younis, Waqar, shouldn’t be forgotten. Nor should Dav Whatmore or Mohsin Khan. They all built the victory too. Coaching Pakistan is difficult. The media, the players and the board will quickly make you the scapegoat when much remains outside your control. One-day failures can distort and overshadow success in Test cricket. Nonetheless, Waqar persevered through hard times, particularly improving Pakistan’s current generation of fast bowlers.

That challenge now rests with Mickey Arthur, a highly skilled, no-nonsense coach.

The kind of cricket article one wishes he/she had written!

There are two cricket teams which awed the world with their raw skills and talent – West Indies and Pakistan. Both have seen huge decline and it is some triumph to see one top the rankings. And that too with hardly any superstar players which donned both the teams in large numbers. It is a long way to go for Pakistan and such rankings hopefully boost the future prospects of cricket in the region (though again odds are really high).

This is a great moment for Test cricket and needs to be savored. This despite the fact that India missed the number one tag by a whisker and mainly due to rain gods. India plays far more number of tests than Pakistan and many are lined up at home as well. They will soon replace Pakistan.

 

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