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How Pakistan vaulted into upper-tier of Test rankings

July 20, 2012


Pakistan’s cricket team surged to number four in the ICC Test rankings this week after the annual update – a move which currently establishes Pakistan as the best Asian Test side as India’s ranking has dwindled down to number five. Although the number four spot is not exceptional, but bearing in mind that the last time Pakistan were in the upper-tier of the Test rankings was five years ago (May 2007), it is Pakistan’s pièce de résistance. It has also fulfilled captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s promise to take Pakistan into the top four to play in the World Test Championship, which was then scheduled to take place in 2013, only to be moved to 2017.

The ICC rankings are updated in August every year ensuring that the latest performances of teams are taken into account. Since there was no Test series scheduled to end by August 1 or near it this year, the ICC made its annual update at the end of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan series which concluded on July 12.

The ICC Test rankings only consider performances of the past four years. Each year, after the annual update, the performance from four years ago is discarded from the rankings. (South Africa slipped down the rankings because their series victories in England and Australia four years ago were not considered). In the current case, all the performances from August 2008-2009 – the period in which Pakistan played only five Tests, did not win any and lost the series to Sri Lanka 2-0 – were not included.

The current rankings span over two periods of four years:

A)    2 years, from August 2009 to August 2011 – It has 50 per cent weightage in the rankings. B)    2 years, from August 2011 to August 2013 – It has 100 per cent weightage in the rankings.

Next year, in 2013, when the ICC will again update its rankings, the performances from August 2009 - 2010 will not be evaluated and therefore, Australia’s 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan in January 2010 will be excluded. Pakistan’s ranking could get a further boost after next year’s update but for that they must not run out of steam as they are set to play Tests against Zimbabwe in January, South Africa in February-March and West Indies in June-July.

This is not the first time that Pakistan has been given a boost in Test rankings. In July 2006, when Inzamam-ul-Haq was captain, Pakistan leapfrogged to number two, just behind Australia who were then number one. However, Pakistan’s stay at number two was fleeting. The very next month, in August 2006, Pakistan lost to England 3-0 and lost the number two slot. In the aftermath of that series, England replaced Pakistan as number two and the Ashes of that year, which started in November 2006, were contested between the top two Test teams.

Pakistan can improve their ranking further and climb up to number three as early as next month after the series between South Africa and England ends on August 20. England is currently number one with ratings of 122 while South Africa (number three, 113 ratings) is ahead of Pakistan (number four, 109 ratings) by a small margin. If England beat South Africa by a margin of 2-0 or better, it will see South Africa slip behind Pakistan and the latter rise up to number three – behind England and Australia (number two).

However, on a broader scope and with much optimism, Pakistan would want South Africa to beat England to become number 1 and would further want South Africa beat Australia in December this year. If all goes according to plan, then when Pakistan meet South Africa in February 2013, they will have the opportunity to beat the world number one Test side just like they did in UAE against England last winter. In the interim, Pakistan will hope that the outcome of the India-England series goes in their favour.


Mazher Arshad is a Cricket buff based in Islamabad who considers watching Cricket and giving insights of it as his foremost priority on social media.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.