Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq hopes international cricket will soon return to the country as he celebrated the team’s climb to the top of the Test rankings by being awarded the ceremonial mace to mark the achievement on Tuesday.
It was a poignant occasion for the 42-year-old Misbah as he 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 Lanka 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 in the United Arab Emirates ever since.
“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 number one position has been (made) outside Pakistan.
“The players have missed on 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.”
The Lahore incident saw the Sri Lankan touring party set upon by at least 10 gunmen, who wounded six players and a British coach, and killed eight Pakistanis in the attack.
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 number one 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 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 number one ranked test side at the 1 April 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.”