By Obaid ur Rehman.
When we talk about Sports in Pakistan, Cricket comes first in our minds, which is the most popular game in Pakistan being followed at almost every single corner of the country. History of Pakistan Cricket is full of massive achievements and two World Crowns. In 1992, Pakistan for the first time ever became the World Champion under the leadership of one of the greats of Pakistan Cricket, Imran Khan. It was 90s era also when Pakistan Cricket saw its peak and achieved many feats. Pakistan cricket couldn’t maintain its form and since then to up till now, Pakistan One Day Cricket is on constant decline and right now we are ranked 9th in ICC ODI Rankings. But thankfully, ODI Cricket is not an only form of the game.
Talking about T20 Cricket, when it took hold of cricketing world, it seemed to be made for Pakistan with its pinch hitters and deadly bowlers. Pakistan has played 4 Semi Finals and 2 Finals of World T20s, the only team to do so. In 2007, we narrowly lost to India but two years later in 2009, Pakistan achieved the World Crown in international cricket right after 17 years under the captaincy of another Khan, Younis Khan along with the stunning performances of Shahid Afridi and Muhammad Amir. Since after 2012, Pakistan couldn’t hold its feet stronger on T20 Ranking Tables and fell to 7th spot. Another format, another decline in it.
No Home-Cricket since March 2009 and Spot Fixing Scandal in 2010 were the turning points for Pakistan Cricket. Cricketing world just lost the faith in Pakistan Cricket as a whole. These two incidents made Pakistan cricket suffer a lot and won’t ever be forgotten for decades.
Talking about Test Cricket, we proudly say that now it is Pakistan’s format. Pakistan is Number 1 in Test Rankings. Yes it happened after 28 years when Misbah-ul-Haq made it possible after leveling the series with England 2-2 in England. Last time, it was Imran Khan who led his men on top spot on ranking tables. We know that Pakistan hasn’t won an Olympic Gold Medal for more than 20 years. Squash and Hockey are also not shining the way they used to rule the world once. For now, Pakistan is done with these games keeping their current structure in view. But yet, we have heard after a long period of time that Pakistan is No. 1 somewhere in the world of sport, in Test Cricket.
When Spot Fixing Scandal hit Pak-Cricket, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) decided to give Misbah-ul-Haq the responsibility to lead Pakistan in Test format. It was difficult time for Pakistan cricket due to No home-cricket phase and absence of three main players in the squad after Spot Fixing Scandal. Since then, Misbah didn’t look back, kept on going ahead, winning victories for the nation and did what no one would ever had believed, by climbing up to Number 1 spot.
Misbah’s captaincy works on various virtues and principles. He always has a clear plan of how to setup his team and how to execute the strategy to hit the opponents. Cricket analysts and former players have also criticized Misbah for his defensive approach and extra patience, but Misbah has always proved them wrong through the end-results. Apart from that, Misbah-ul-Haq has shown the bravery by leading from front to face the crucial situation. Apparently Misbah might look too calm and humble in the field unlike Imran Khan, but there couldn’t be any other opinion that after taking Pakistan to No. 1 sport in Test Rankings, Misbah is competing Imran Khan as heroic and brave leader, also for what he has served to Pakistan in the time span of 6 years only. When the players were dealing with the leftovers of Spot Fixing Scandal, it was ofcourse Misbah-ul-Haq who reunited them, gave them a vision and made them champions.
Misbah-ul-Haq had the support of legend of Pakistan cricket, Younis Khan as well, who almost at every occasion, played iconic innings and guided Pakistan to victories. Younis Khan’s Double Century at the final test of series at The Oval is the one to remember when he played a key role in winning the test match. We can say that if Misbah is the architect then Younis is his master builder, because without Younis’ brilliance, Misbah wouldn’t have achieved that much. Also the coaches played vital roles in transforming the ordinary players into world class players, one to name Asad Shafiq as well, probably the most technical player in current Pakistan’s squad. Waqar Younis, Dave Whatmore and Mohsin Hassan Khan helped Pakistani players in converting their talent into match winning performances.
Test Series with England this summer actually paved the way for Pakistan to be the World No. 1, along with the collaboration of results of SriLanka – Australia and India – West Indies Series. Australia getting white washed by Sri Lanka to 0 3-0 and India winning the 4-Match Test Series with 2-0, with the 4th and important Test Match in terms of rankings-decider got washed away due to rain in Port of Spain, made Pakistan to achieve what that no one probably would have ever thought of.
Inspite of that, Pakistan richly deserved to be No. 1 because of several reasons. Consider the shocking decline of sports in Pakistan and the other relevant consequences, failure in ODI Cricket, 6-Years of exile in UAE and no home-cricket for that long period of time. Formation of Big-3 in cricket in 2014 has made the game easier for India, Australia and England with the relevant circumstances favouring these three countries only. Surviving in such an environment that too in Test Cricket was almost an impossible task, but Pakistan did it and silenced its opponents, the Big-3.
For me, it doesn’t matter that for how long Pakistan keeps the No. 1 spot in Test Rankings. Touching that position is enough for at least letting the cricketing world know about the capability of our team that what it can achieve against all the odds. Rising from nothing, with no home cricket, to leave all greats of cricket behind in ranking tables, is something that teams usually dream. Misbah’s men infact lived that dream and made their Green Flag & nation proud.