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— AP

No team has ever overcome more to become No. 1 than Pakistan

Things that happen to Pakistan cricket aren't supposed to happen. Sometimes that's terrible. Sometimes that's wonderful.
Updated Aug 23, 2016 05:41pm

On March 4, 2009, the morning should have started with Younis Khan starting an innings. A week earlier, he had showed the best of Pakistan with a triple century.

But Younis Khan never even made the crease. This was not supposed to happen.

Although the Sri Lankan team and ICC officials were the victims at the time, the Pakistan team has been the victims ever since.

This great and proud cricket nation became cricket's first homeless team.

In the first neutral Test in England, their captain quit mid-innings at Lord's. His replacement would commit a crime on the same tour, taking with him two of cricket's best bowlers.

The traitors and the terrorists were trying to defeat them.

Read: Misbah’s choke lock

Their board was changing hands and outlooks quicker than an Afridi innings. Their senators stood up and called them cheats. Players were banned and unbanned for reasons best known to the idiots who made them.

They had no professional structure.

Their coaches have come and gone, because of poor performance, perceived poor performance, but mostly because it is easier to fire a coach than rebuilding your entire cricket structure.

The traitors had tried to pull them down from the inside, and the terrorists from the outside. They had no proper parenting from their board, and in an era where home teams prospered the most, they had no home.

They should have faded away.

A man they once overlooked wouldn't let them. It says a lot about a country like Pakistan that through all that it can produce someone like Misbah, but it also says a lot that they overlooked him. He wasn't a dictator, he wasn't flashy, he wasn't the next young prodigy. As he rebuilt the most broken cricket team in history, he was compared to a tuk-tuk by his nation's fans.


Pakistan, the unquiet ones, the inconsistent ones, the untrusted ones, played cricket, overcome the worst that was thrown at them and they got to the top of cricket.


He could have spent a couple of years making runs, and then gone into the commentary booth and started having a pop at the players he once led.

Instead he batted on. Misbah is in his 40s. And we still don't know how long he will go on. If he is waiting for a rightful successor, he might have to play on until his 50s. In Misbah they trust.

It won't be physically possible. What he has done for his country also wasn't possible.

Misbah-ul-Haq. — Reuters
Misbah-ul-Haq. — Reuters

Read: Azharuddin reveals context of Younis phone call

My story of Pakistan starts in the suburbs of Melbourne.

I was supposed to like only one team. But in 89/90, I went to see Pakistan play at the MCG. It was my first Test. We sat side on. Wasim Akram bowled.

I didn't even see the ball. I don't know how you can fall in love with something too quick to see, but I did.

Mohammad Amir. — Reuters
Mohammad Amir. — Reuters

The next week, Pakistan played in Sydney and I watched on TV.

There was a bloke there who bounced into the wicket like a cartoon pixie. His arms twirled, and the ball went both ways. I had just started leg spin, so I kind of knew what it was, but I had no idea what Mushtaq Ahmed was doing. It wasn't just leg spin, it was something magical, illegal, and I wanted to do it.

From that day on, I tried to bowl like Mushie.

Years later, I would go to suburban parties, and my dad would tell some random bloke that I played cricket, and he'd ask, "whaddya bowl?" Leg spin, I would say. "Like Warnie, ha". No, like Mushtaq Ahmed, I would say. There would always be the same confused look on the bloke's face.

I was too young to explain love to him.

I also loved Australian cricket; I was as well schooled in it as anyone.

But I loved Pakistan cricket. They are the reason I follow international cricket. When I bowled leg spin, I tried to be Mushie. When I tried to bowl quick, I copied Wasim's action.

Read: Younis Khan stands among the world's batting elite

I didn't know any Pakistani kids, I played with a United Nations cricket team in my suburbs, but somehow, we never had a Pakistani.

But it didn't matter. I had Imran the hero, Inzi the legend, Wasim the blur and my Mushie. That was my Pakistan.

When I started my cricket blog, I put up four photos on my site.

Neil Harvey's Feet. Keith Miller's slog. Wes Hall's leap. And Imran Khan with his hands above his head wearing the best cricket shirt ever made. That was cricket to me.

But loving them since I was nine isn't the reason I am so happy they are number one. This is about history.

Our game has done everything within its power to not grow. And even as it grew, it stayed very much in the hands of England and Australia. The West Indies couldn't get a seat at the high table despite being the best side there ever was. It was only when India used their billion dollar influence that they did.

Pakistan has been fighting this since they became a nation.

Even though they already had Test cricketers, they had to wait years to get a Test side. Then it took them generations to become a top side. They had one great era, and one great moment: a shambolic World Cup victory that only happened because of rain.


A man they once overlooked wouldn't let them. It says a lot about a country like Pakistan that through all that it can produce someone like Misbah, but it also says a lot that they overlooked him. He wasn't a dictator, he wasn't flashy, he wasn't the next young prodigy. As he rebuilt the most broken cricket team in history, he was compared to a tuk-tuk by his nation's fans.


But at the same time, they were accused of cheating with reverse swing.

Then when they were a top side, when they had earned it, fought for it, spent forty years fighting for it, it was their players who gave it away. Their own judge disgusted with what this cricket team had become.

In the entire history of Test cricket, there have really been only five teams at number one. Unofficially people will say that Pakistan was number one for a month or two in the 80s.

But unofficially or not, no one believes they were number one ahead of the West Indies in that period.

Younis Khan in action. — AFP
Younis Khan in action. — AFP

And now there are six. This is real. As real as the rain in Trinidad; as real as Younis Khan's double century at the Oval.

Read: Test mace beckons with Pakistan primed for top ranking

It has been 2,728 days since the attacks of Lahore. In that time they have played 1,000 years of cricket. The heartbeat of Pakistan cricket has pounded a million times. The rage of Pakistan fans has flashed a billion times. Their country, their leader betrayed them. And yet they are better than they have ever been.

They are the best in the world.

Most teams who are the best are the best both home and away, Pakistan only has away.

No team has ever overcome more to become number one than Pakistan.

The West Indies had a home fortress. Australia and England were the most professional of their eras. India are a billion dollar team. And even South Africa's troubles aren't anything compared to Pakistan's. They aren't the best team to be number one; they are the most amazing.

The history of cricket, their board, their nation, and at times their own team has done everything in its power to stop this from happening. And it happened. It is as wonderful as Ijaz Ahmed's grip. As Pakistani fast bowling hair. As Misbah's beard. As Fazal Mahmood's aura. As Hanif Mohammad's concentration. As Imran Khan.

Pakistan, the unquiet ones, the inconsistent ones, the untrusted ones, played cricket, overcome the worst that was thrown at them and they got to the top of cricket.

They had to beg to be a Test side. They had to prove they weren't cheats. They were let down by a generation of heroes. They had to overcome not playing at home. They had to make up for losing their best two bowlers.

Read: My homework on England batsmen paid off in Tests, says Sohail Khan

They had to come together, not for one magic tournament, but for years of hard work always away from home — losing bowlers to dodgy actions, having seven-foot giants breaking down, and with the whole world pitying or ignoring them.

And somehow after all that, they conquered cricket's toughest desert.

Pakistan celebrate their win. — Reuters
Pakistan celebrate their win. — Reuters

This was not supposed to happen.

Younis Khan is still not supposed to be playing.

Misbah was never supposed to lead.

Mohammad Amir was not supposed to come back.

They were not supposed to draw in England.

This team were not supposed to be number one.

The things that happen to Pakistan cricket are not supposed to happen. Sometimes that is terrible. Sometimes that is wonderful.

Today is wonderful. This team is a thing of wonder.

Elegant chaos, endless joy, I give you Pakistan, the world's number one Test cricket team.


Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo, hosts a radio show called cricket week and was the co-director of Death of a Gentleman.

He tweets @ajarrodkimber


The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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