Pakistan deserve to be rated the No. 1 Test side, according to their captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, in recognition of their success despite being unable to play any games at home.
Pakistan won the final Test against England at The Oval to square the series 2-2. It means that, should Sri Lanka defeat Australia by a margin of 2-0 (or better) and West Indies draw the Port of Spain Test, Pakistan would claim the No.1 spot for the first time since the official rankings were introduced in 2003. Their highest placing to date is second, which they achieved following the series win over England in the UAE at the end of 2015.
Misbah believes that, for a side obliged to host its home series in the UAE due to concerns over the security situation in Pakistan since 2009, that is a remarkable record.
This team deserves that for six years of not playing any games at home,” Misbah said. “Sometimes people think it’s really easy for us playing in the UAE. They think the wickets suit us and we win there.
Misbah on …
Mohammad Amir:”He did OK. He was unlucky a lot of catches were dropped off his bowling. But overall his behaviour and attitude and commitment were there. He played a crucial innings with Younis Khan, too.”
England playing in Bangladesh: “It’s their decision but if a team is not playing at home, it’s really not good for cricket. People in Bangladesh love cricket. They have a craziness for it. If they are deprived of hosting cricket, it could be a big loss for them.”
“But just living every day away from your country, without your family and friends, and playing every game away from Pakistan, is really difficult. It’s mentally tough.
“I can only see my mother once a year. I only see my sister once a year. Some of my friends, I could not see for three or four years because of these commitments. We are out of the country all the time. There are a lot of tours and even our home series are in the UAE. We go from West Indies to New Zealand to Australia. It’s not easy.
“But still the team is winning. Still the team is playing competitive cricket. There were lots of questions before we came here about whether we could only play in Asian conditions, but we have shown that we are good enough to play even in these conditions. At one stage we were winning this series.
“I’m really proud of this team and I think that, if we can be No. 1 after all these results, then we really deserve that.”
The key to Pakistan’s success was, according to Misbah, their self-belief. Despite a thumping loss at Manchester and a final-day collapse that cost them the Edgbaston Test, they showed admirable resilience to fight back at The Oval. And while he admitted that losing from an apparently strong position at Edgbaston still hurt, he felt the final result was “not a bad score”.
“I am happy with the character shown by the Pakistan team,” Misbah said. “After two defeats, they fought back in this game and won. This is pleasing for me. This team has character and stood up the occasion, fought hard and levelled the series. Winning this match means a lot.
“The important point is that you should keep believing as a team and individuals. These players have been playing for six years and they have performed in difficult situations. Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and Younis Khan have played winning knocks under pressure and our bowling always stands out. We knew that, when the batsmen found form and we were able to combine our performances with the bat and the ball, we could do well. We had belief throughout the series.
“After the situation we were in after the third day at Edgbaston, I am a bit disappointed that the series is level. Losing from there is a little disappointing. But credit must be given to England.”
While recent Pakistan tours to England have sometimes ended in acrimony – the Oval Test of 2006 was awarded to England after Pakistan refused to return to the field after an interval following allegations of ball-tampering, while the 2010 series was overshadowed by the spot-fixing scandal – it was noticeable this time that supporters of both sides gave the Pakistan team a warm ovation as they completed a lap of honour around the boundary. It was, Misbah felt, a fitting celebration for a team and a nation making the anniversary of their Independence Day.
“Cricket matches are won and lost,” Misbah said, “but to win people and supporters, that is really important. This series has been played in good spirits. Both teams fought well and everyone will remember this series for the sort of cricket we played. There were no off-field issues. We are really happy to conclude the tour on a pleasing note. On and off the field we made friends.
“Keeping in mind it was Independence Day, it was something special to draw the series here after being 2-1 down. The way the team fought back… I’m a really happy captain.”