ICC rankings August 22, 2012

Pakistan's unexpected fourth

South Africa's deserved rise to No.1 in Test cricket offered the world a lingering view of the new Test rankings. The top three were as expected, vanquished England sitting above Australia

South Africa's deserved rise to No.1 in Test cricket offered the world a lingering view of the new Test rankings. The top three were as expected, vanquished England sitting above Australia. But fourth place, let's admit, was a distraction. Only two summers ago, a Pakistan team that had lost the art of competitiveness in Test cricket also lost the heart and soul of its bowling attack. Yet today it sits a comfortable fourth in the Test rankings, an immense and unexpected achievement.

Pakistan cricket is a difficult subject. Witness the reluctance of any commentator to draw Pakistan's position into the discussion about the world rankings. How is it possible that an impoverished, disgraced and exiled cricket nation sits above, for example, the world's richest and strongest cricket power? How do you explain a phenomenon that, albeit aided by the complex statistical contortions of the Kendrix ranking system, appears to defy all expectation? How is it possible to even discuss the merits of Pakistan cricket without dredging up the murky depths of corruption that defiled the home of cricket as thoroughly as England's last stand honoured it?

What the next chapter of this remarkable story offers is anybody's guess? But for the moment Pakistan cricket has risen from the flames, like the phoenix that ended the closing ceremony of the London Olympics. Pakistan cricket has these cycles of rise and fall, of wounding and healing, of glory and ruin, although without periodicity or logic. Despite this fluctuation, the overall trend has been downwards, until the upward flick of the last two years.

It is six years ago, for example, that the team of Bob Woolmer and Inzamam-ul Haq was able to plan for reaching the top; the progress halted by another controversial tour of England. Twenty years ago, Pakistan cricket was an exciting enterprise with thrilling fast bowlers and swashbuckling batsmen, a team that Usain Bolt supported as a child. Today's team is an exercise in pragmatism that would struggle to enrapture the childhood of any sprint champion of the future.

Yet in the month that celebrates the independence of Pakistan, and spurs such contemplation on the purpose of its cricket, every true heart and soul turns to notions of realising the dreams of a nation whose cricket is the most visible barometer of its success on the international stage. Hence the mere sport of cricket remains important, despite the many slings, arrows and drones that are besetting Pakistan. The cricketers, at least those who are worldly enough, will understand the significance of even a minor scuffle against Australia in the United Arab Emirates. Few teams will place as much importance on success in the World Twenty20 as will Pakistan.

The underlying theme of the next cricket year, however, will be Pakistan's relationship with its noisy neighbour. India and Pakistan meet in a warm-up before the World T20 in September and in the Champions Trophy in June 2013; no major tournament, it seems, is feasible without a head-to-head between these two eternal rivals. In between, Pakistan's mooted trip to India may usher in another era of bilateral cricket, an essential fixture for the credibility of the international game and the distraction of both populations. Cricket diplomacy is a disputed concept but cricket is a high-profile example of the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan, buoyed by the simple hope that familiarity will breed trust.

You might call me a dreamer but I'm not the only one among Indians and Pakistanis worldwide. Cricket is an opportunity to begin the process of reconciliation, and we must seize every genuine opportunity. Take South Africa, for example. Vernon Philander and Hashim Amla are beacons of the lengthy reconciliation process that was started after the end of Apartheid. In these circumstances, only a successful Test series in South Africa can challenge the fascination of Pakistan's adventures with India. Win that unwinnable series and the next Usain Bolt might even begin to pay attention to the flickering star of Pakistan cricket.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on September 30, 2012, 15:38 GMT

    Pakistani team is sucha laanti team , they always insults pakistan after loosing against india... I start to hate them. they always disappoint us.

  • testli5504537 on September 25, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    Need an info: According to the schedule of Super 8s it is mentioned that C1 vs D2. According to my assessment C1 means the team stood first in Group C. If that is the case how come SriLanka play against NewZealand when Srilanka is ranked at # 2 in Group C. Can anyone plz explain that what is meant by C2, D2 etc....

  • testli5504537 on September 17, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    Jawai ka Susral ko Sabak!!!! India v Pak T20

    Shoib Malik: 37(18) match winning contribution!

  • testli5504537 on September 14, 2012, 13:08 GMT

    I am from Nepal and I am a great fans of Pakistani cricket and the way they play for their nation. Pakistan has produces many great cricket for the world and their bowling was great among other nation bowler.But now i haven't seen that bowling attack from Pakistani cricket.and hope team will be again t20 champion in sir-Lanka...BEST OF LUCK PAKISTAN.....

  • testli5504537 on September 5, 2012, 17:43 GMT

    Pakistan was winning consistently they even defeaated No 1 test team 3 nil .....All of a sudden they began losing everything.....WHAT CHANGED???? COACH....................Bring back MOHSIN KAHN or MIANDAD & Pk will start winning everything again

  • testli5504537 on September 4, 2012, 8:02 GMT

    Lot of Pak fans are saying that India hardly win in SA, Australia or England! But, tell me -- when do these country win against India in India?! It is all about home advantage my friend...! There is nothing wrong in winning in your own country...

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2012, 17:51 GMT

    Misbah is definitely not fit tobe a member of the Pakistan ODI Team . He has not scored a fifty in OdIs for ages . Further , he can ever score at a pace needed . The best he can do is to score in singles. He won,t retire , he should be retired .

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    Even on batting powerlay Misbah cannot score at arun aball. Why is he allowed to play for he ODIs Team ?

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2012, 17:09 GMT

    Why doesn't, the PCB retire Misbah from ODIs . It is really painful watching his slow plodding cricket from him .

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2012, 16:52 GMT

    After Avery good start given by Haferz and Jamshed Nasir can Misbah show even once he is fit to play in ODIs as a Batsman and score a run s ball . If he cannot he should do the decent thing and retire from ODIs

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