Pakistan: The most deserving Test team
Pakistan finally bagged the number one spot in the International Cricket Council Test ranking table. This is a great achievement for a team that has faced various difficulties and issues, such as playing home games away from Pakistan and the 2010 spot fixing fiasco.
After the Lord’s spot fixing fiasco in 2010, Misbahul Haq was handed the reins of the Pakistan Test side. Initially, Misbah’s selection as a Test captain was perceived as a stopgap. But little did we know that after a seven year continuous stint, Misbah would raise his team from the ruins and lead them towards becoming the number one Test side in the world.
ICC introduced these rankings back in 2003 and this is the second time that Pakistan has made it to the number one side.
Pakistan’s rise to the number one side is an apt response from Misbah and his team to their detractors. During his captaincy years, Misbah become the most successful captain of Pakistan with 22 Test victories to his name. He and his team beat Australia in a Test series in 2014 (after a long gap of 20 years) and he also led his team to whitewash England 3-0 during a 2012 Test series.
Out of all the achievements, the best was the 2-2 draw accomplished against England in the recently concluded Test series. Had Pakistan been more alert during various stages of the series, especially on the last day of Edgbaston Test, they may have ended up winning the series against the host nation. I feel this series between Pakistan and England was by far the most competitive series of the year. It kept fans glued to their seats till the last ball of the series, a rarity in Test matches.
Pakistan was known as a team that only played well in Asian conditions, but keeping the recent scintillating performance against England in mind, Pakistan has proven that it is capable of playing great cricket in any condition.
When Pakistan embarked on their England tour, most people predicted a thrashing or a whitewash for Pakistan. Such bleak forecasts were justified since England was in brilliant form while, on the other hand, the Pakistani cricket team had only three players in its squad with prior Test experience. Mohammad Amir, who was returning to Test cricket after six long years, was one of those three players.
As always, Pakistan surprised its critics with their remarkable performance, and in the process halted England’s record of winning six consecutive series comprising of four or more matches since 2010.
Pakistan’s performance in England, combined with a few favourable results in Test matches played by other teams, allowed Pakistan to jump to the number one Test team in the ICC Test ranking table. This ranking was not handed to Pakistan on a silver platter. Rather, the team has worked extremely hard and played outstandingly to reach this milestone.
This achievement was all the more wonderful because Pakistan was facing a partial disadvantage due to glitches present in the ICC’s ranking system.
The rating system is based on assigning points to teams for every Test match played, and then averaging it out over all Tests played by the team during the period under consideration. Thus, the final rating is an average score for the team during that period.
It is also based on the other teams’ performances over a period of four years and every May, the performance chart is updated. I personally feel four years is too long – instead ICC should award rating points over a period of two years.
According to ICC’s ranking system, teams that play more Test matches have a greater chance of climbing up the ranking ladder. Therefore teams such as India, Australia, England and South Africa (which play 10 to 12 Test’s a year on average) have a better chance of staying on top of the table as opposed to teams like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand (which play six to seven Tests a year on average).
The home team has an added advantage because they tend to win the series. Home teams can prepare pitches which add to their strengths and exploit the touring teams’ weaknesses.
In this regard, Pakistan is at a disadvantage since they have been playing the Test series on UAE’s turf for more than seven years now. Even though Pakistan is aware that UAE conditions serve them relatively better than other teams; the downside of this is the lacklustre crowd which affects the stadium’s atmosphere, making it rather dull. This could have been prevented if the series were played in Pakistan.
Furthermore, due to boarding, lodging and other such issues, Pakistan restricted its Test series to just two Tests, leading them towards a disadvantage of gaining additional rating points (since they do not play Test series comprising of three or more Tests).
To increase the ranking system’s credibility, ICC should bind all Test nations to strictly abide by its Future Tour Programs (FTP). Powerful members of ICC, like India and Australia, brazenly violate the FTP since they know that an ineffective body like the ICC cannot take appropriate action against them.
India had agreed to play a few Test series against Pakistan, but taking advantage of the political tension between the countries, the Indian cricket board backed out, resulting in the series being called off.
India and Australia play quite a few series against each other, as do other top ranking teams, which leave teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka to play with each other. Playing with teams which have similar rating points will not help Pakistan in any way. A ranking can only witness a marked improvement if a team with low ranking points beats a team with considerably higher ranking points.
I hope the ICC, along with its members, reconsiders the existing rating system and the FTP in order to provide all Test playing teams an equal opportunity to achieve high ratings.
Pakistan’s rise to the number one slot (after rain washed out the fourth Test between India and West Indies) is nature’s way of favouring Pakistan – a team that has remained steadfast in the face of adversities.
It’s evident that this position is a result of our team’s sustained hard work rather than a lucky fluke. Since the difference of points between the top teams is minimal, it is expected that this position will fluctuate quite a bit in the coming months.
But whatever the future may hold, this is our team’s moment and they have every right to celebrate it, even if it may be short lived.