Earlier in the year, Pakistan moved to the top of the ICC Test Championship for the first time to complete a remarkable ascension. Their evergreen captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, has been a big part of their success.
In October 2010, Pakistani cricket was in crisis. It had been nearly four years since the side had won a Test series, winning only four matches from 25 in the process. The spot-fixing scandal that was exposed a few months earlier had left a dark shadow hanging over the sport, and the country was unable to play cricket at home after the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus.
Pakistan needed somebody to help clawback a mere semblance of respectability in world cricket. At the time, not many people thought that somebody would be Misbah-ul-Haq, a 36-year-old with an average of 33.60 from 19 matches, who wasn’t even in the team after being dropped earlier that year.
Usually, getting dropped in your mid-thirties spells the end of a career so it was even more bewildering to see Misbah not only recalled to the team, but installed as captain. However, there weren’t many other options available for a team that had already had three captains in 2010 and Misbah’s appointment has turned out to be the catalyst for a remarkable turnaround for Pakistan.
The new captain was written off by many as soon as he was given the seemingly poisoned chalice, but he gained admirers from the start as results improved instantly in the form of a drawn series with South Africa. His calming influence brought about Pakistan’s first series win since 2006 with a victory in New Zealand, and throughout 2011, Pakistan won four more series. At the start of 2012, England, newly-crowned world number one, were dispatched 3-0 in the UAE, Pakistan’s home away from home.
The culmination of this remarkable turnaround occurred in August as Pakistan became number one for the first time- the fourth team to top the rankings this year and the fifth since 2003, when the ICC Test Championship was introduced. Since overcoming Australia at the end of 2014, the side had been unbeaten until the recent series in New Zealand.
Staying at the top has proved tricky for Pakistan- losing in New Zealand saw them drop to fourth, though that's partly because of other results. Beating Australia could see them move up to second. It's topsy-turvy at the summit of the rankings.
That slide should take no shine off theirs or Misbah's achievements, nor should Australia underestimate this Pakistan side in the upcoming series.
Misbah is now Pakistan’s most successful Test captain, with a record of 50 matches played, 24 wins, 11 draws and 15 losses. Among all nations, he sits 12th on the list of captains with most Test victories. Those figures are even more remarkable given that every match has been played away from home. With the bat, he has thrived with the added responsibility and averages 53.70 as captain (compared to 47.79 overall).
Last time he was in Australia, he was dropped after two matches and his place in the team seemed temporary. This time round, Misbah brings a team that has been built around his captancy.
Now 42, Misbah is nearing the end of a career that seemed over at 35. His place in history is assured. His and Pakistan’s transformation has been a joy to behold for cricket lovers around the world.