India’s miss Pakistan’s gain, but they’ve earned No 1 Test ranking

No 1 Test Ranking
The sight of a sun-drenched stadium unfit for play due to intermittent showers is a sad commentary on the West Indies Cricket Board’s unprofessional attitude. Their inability to get the ground ready for the match, not having proper facilities to dry a soggy, wet outfield in time for the show to begin, should draw condemnation from the Indian Board and the ICC.

This callous indifference will cost India the number one slot in the Test rankings and push a mercurial Pakistan, for the first time in their history, to top the rankings.

Given the almost mysterious manner in which these rankings are decided, with stronger performances seemingly not getting the weight age they deserve, they may not amount to much. Yet, there is a prestige and recognition attached to them, especially as they come from official channels.

India will feel miffed and cheated at being deprived of this honour, but if a wider poll is conducted, there will be many who would say Pakistan deserve to be called the best Test side in the world.

When, in 2009, the Sri Lankans were subjected to a terror attack in Lahore, Pakistan got completely isolated from the cricketing world. No team has ever since played Test cricket in the country and Pakistan had to shift its base to UAE, which it now calls its home for playing purposes. For seven years now, Pakistan has been deprived of any international cricket and it is unimaginable to think any other nation would have survived this long in exile.

It is a tribute to the talent, grit and resilience of its players and their passion for the game, that match-fixing bans, lack of finances and the machinations of its board have not dampened their spirits.

They have played the game with the same zeal and abandon, especially Test cricket, for which they have won over their most rabid critics over the years. Who can forget Wahab Riaz’s terrifying spell in the World Cup against Australia that symbolises Pakistan’s strength as a team to be always feared.

Pakistan’s performance in England, where they drew the series 2-2, will stand out as one of their most heartening and courageous displays, coming as it did in the backdrop of their humiliation in the same country in 2010.

Lord’s, the venue of those “fixed” no balls and subsequent punishment of Mohammad Amir, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, had left the team in disgrace. Six years later, the same venue was witness to a historic win and an unusual form of celebration from the Pakistani team that left England, for reasons best known to them, smarting with anger.

The cool, calm and unflappable Misbah Ul-Haq, at the age of 42, not only had the stamina to score a century but also do push-ups in celebration of that match-winning effort.

Once the victory was achieved, the entire team, in the presence of a near full house, repeated what their captain had done. It was a thanksgiving gesture for those army-men who had helped them improve their fitness in a boot camp held in Pakistan before the tour.

Alistair Cook probably took this harmless gesture as a deliberate act of needling his team. But all Pakistan was doing was signalling their return as a team which had earned their self-respect and dignity with that victory.

India, who are playing most of their Test cricket at home this year, will get their chance to snatch the number one slot from Pakistan. For now, let us be gracious enough to acknowledge that it serves cricket well to have a strong, vibrant Pakistan side.

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