No 1? What No 1?
After all its tribulations over the last five years or so, touching its all time low in 2010 in England, and its fallout haunting our boys through 2011 with the sentencing of the tainted trio, this is a sweet moment. Indeed one of our finest for many years, with the possible exception of capturing the T20 World crown in 2009. England were not just beaten, they were toyed with and mauled – and with such aplomb. Before this humiliation, the reigning World No 1 Test side had not been put to the sword in the last 13 months.
Over roughly the same period, starting with South Africa in the autumn of 2010 at the same gulf venues that we are now obliged to call our cricketing ‘home’, Pakistan began plotting its revival. What has followed is quite remarkable – a whole year of positive results and a move up the rankings across all three formats. Misbah-ul-Haq meanwhile has emerged as skipper extraordinaire. Under him, Pakistan lost just one game apiece in Tests and ODIs. More important than that statistic is how he has raised the team in his own image, with equipoise, focus, dedication and team effort the bywords. This is most unlike Pakistan captains of recent past, and this team is unlike those that used to wear its unpredictability like a badge of honour.
This emphatic win against England is no fluke, no flash in the pan. This is the measure of Pakistan’s resurrection – from nadir to zenith, from a loser’s demeanour to a winner’s aura. Whatever the outcome of the ongoing rubber, one can safely predict two things. One, England is too good a side not to come back hard. Two, this Pakistan team may lose the odd game but it has the composure and self-assurance to hold its own. And they have the resources to boot. Pakistan’s batting has fewer flashy stroke-makers. The pace they set is often not a spectacle to die for, but the accent is on solidity. To quote the skipper, “entertainment can wait”. And the bowling has already got England twice under 200, not a mean feat on the Dubai featherbed. Bowling as a unit could have been better off with a left-arm option in pace, but Saeed Ajmal’s wristy guile and command over mind games and Umar Gul’s unalloyed aggression are good enough to roll over England again. Time for Pakistani fans to sit back and rejoice.