Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, celebrating Pakistan’s climb to the top of the Test rankings, has expressed hope international cricket will return soon to his country.
Speaking on Tuesday while being awarded the ceremonial mace to mark the achievement, the 42-year-old Misbah accepted the silver and gold-plated trophy at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, a venue where Pakistan played their last Test on home soil.
An attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in the city in 2009 led to Pakistan’s exclusion from hosting major international tours, with the side forced to play ‘home’ games since than in the United Arab Emirates.
“There can’t be a better location to receive the ICC Test Championship mace than this ground,” Misbah said after receiving the trophy from International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive David Richardson.
“It is ironic for both the players as well as the fans that the journey to the No.1 position has been (made) outside Pakistan.
“The players have missed the crowd support, while the spectators have been unable to watch live some magnificent team and individual performances. But I am confident that things will change and international cricket will soon return to Pakistan.”
In the Lahore attack, the Sri Lankan touring party was set upon by at least 10 gunmen, who wounded six players and a British coach, and killed eight Pakistanis.
Undaunted by the isolation, Misbah’s men have recently beaten Australia and England in the UAE, drawn with New Zealand and earned impressive away series wins in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh before this year’s 2-2 draw in England. Pakistan were then elevated to No.1 in the rankings without bowling a ball after table-topping India were denied the 3-0 series win they needed to retain top spot against the West Indies last month when the final Test ended in a damp draw.
“The next target we have set for ourselves is to finish as the No.1-ranked Test side at the April 1 cutoff date,” said Misbah, referring to the prize money on offer to the ranking leaders on that day.
“It is not going to be easy as we have series against formidable sides like the West Indies, New Zealand and Australia. But instead of getting overawed by our opponents, we need to trust in our abilities, focus on our strengths and try to be as consistent as possible.”