Norman’s Sri Lanka diary :
India and Pakistan in the mix for No. 1 Test cricket could have a new No.1 ranked side with Pakistan’s final Test triumph at The Oval over England potentially propelling them ahead of Australia and India. According to the latest update from the ICC, if Australia lose or draw the final Test of their series against Sri Lanka and the West Indies manage to prevent India from winning the last encounter of their series in the Caribbean, Pakistan will be the new top dog.
Pakistan secured a 2-2 series stalemate with England after Younis Khan’s double-century powered Pakistan to a resounding final Test victory. Should Misbah-ul-Haq’s men claim the mantle following Australia’s disappointing Test campaign in Sri Lanka, it would be a remarkable turnaround for a side that’s still prevented from playing Tests on home soil. An emotional Misbah, who refused to be drawn into whether he’d continue on as Pakistan captain for their tour Down Under this summer, believes his side’s performances in the face of adversity renders them worthy of the No.1 tag. “I think so – this team deserves that,” the 42-year-old told reporters when asked if his team warrants a title they’ve never held since the ICC rankings were introduced in 2003.”
Six years of not playing any games at home. If you think of how you are living nearly every single day outside your country, without your family and playing all your games outside of Pakistan … It’s really difficult, it’s mentally tough. “I can only see my mother once in a year, my sister once in a year and some of my friends, I could not see for three of four years because we are playing all of our games out of our country.” Now we have to go back to play against the West Indies, from there we go to New Zealand and then straightaway we are going to Australia. “(Even) given those circumstances, the team is winning, they are being competitive. There were a lot of ‘ifs and buts’ before we came here to England, saying that we can only play in Asian conditions.”I think this team’s shown that we are good enough to play in these sorts of conditions.”I’m really proud of this team and if we became No.1 after these results, I think this team would really deserve that.”
Australia captain Steve Smith was presented with the ICC Test mace prior to the first Test in Kandy for his side’s position at the top of the rankings following the year-long qualifying period that ended April 1.But they’ve since lost consecutive matches to No.7 ranked Sri Lanka and regardless of the result in the third and final Test in Colombo, Australia will give up their title when the ICC next updates the table. No.2 ranked India could overtake Smith’s men and keep Pakistan at bay if they prevail over the West Indies in the final Test in Port of Spain, a series the tourists currently lead 2-0. Either way, it sets up a tantalising summer for Australia. Following a visit from South Africa, they host Pakistan for three Tests in December before beginning their tour of India in February, meaning Australia could soon be locked in a three-way battle to reclaim the gilded mace. England meanwhile look likely to remain in fourth position after they missed a golden chance to move up a notch or two.
Norman is Indianz X-PRESS newspaper’s sports correspondent based in Australia.