(ESPNcricinfo) Former Pakistan coach Waqar Younis has said captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s positive intent and calmness were the principal factors in Pakistan’s rise to No. 1 in Tests. He added that this was a time when every Pakistani could rejoice and feel proud of the team’s achievements.
Pakistan recently squared their four-match Test series in England – even as Australia were whitewashed 3-0 by Sri Lanka – to move into the No. 2 position and put the heat on India. After India’s fourth Test against West Indies ended in a draw, Pakistan assumed top spot with 111 points, with India slipping to second place with 110.
“It’s a proud moment for the whole nation,” Waqar told ESPNcricinfo. “It’s a huge moment for Misbah and for the entire team, as all the hard work finally paid off. It’s always the ultimate dream to become the No. 1 team in the world, and there is no team other than Pakistan that deserves to be at the top. They suffered a lot in last seven-eight years but they have played outstanding cricket all along.
“There were a lot of problems in the background – those controversies and especially cricket not being played in the country and the boys being always on the road and away from home. So that is the major part I feel the team should be proud off. We kept moving forward after every hurdle, never stayed down and kept on fighting against all odds. That struggle makes this a remarkable moment for the country.”
Waqar had two stints with Pakistan as head coach. Between March 2010 and August 2011, he oversaw five series, of which one was won, one was lost and three were drawn. During his second spell, between May 2012 and April 2016, the team won four series, drew one and lost one, results that laid a solid foundation in the team’s run to the top. Waqar was replaced as head coach byMickey Arthur, who joined the team 10 days before the recent England tour.
“I am honestly touched and, no, it’s not about taking credit for what I have done. I would rather give full credit to Misbah-ul-Haq, who has shown resilience against his critics and never spoke a harsh word when things were going wrong. People were crushing him down because of his style of play, but now I think those people should be proud as Pakistanis. What else could you want from him? He did everything in his own way and, whether or not people like his way, it is working for the country and has taken us to the top of the world. What else do you want to achieve?
“It was Misbah’s honesty and good intent that made a huge difference. His positive intentions and his characteristics are outstanding. His calmness – I have never seen him cursing his critics. Even though former and current players let him down, he never responded. But look what he has achieved. This is the kind of thing that made him the best. Pakistan is the team that deserves to be the No. 1 side.”
Pakistan, in the 1990s, had bigger names on paper, many of whom went on to achieve great individual feats for the country. Apart from Waqar himself, Wasim Akram, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Saeed Anwar and Shoaib Akhtar were among the biggest names Pakistan has produced in its cricketing history. But that Pakistan side still did not achieve what the present lot has done – climbing to the pinnacle of the Test rankings.
“We were very good individually and were different,” Waqar said of the teams that he had played in. “It’s not like we didn’t win much, but we were not the No. 1 team. That is why I feel more proud of this present team. Because this team is more gelled, know their role and are very well settled. Of course, these are not yet great players – none apart from Younis Khan has reached that mark – but they have done what we in the ’90s were not able to do. This team could easily have fallen short of greatness, but they have achieved it with their hard work and unity.
“We struggled to step up in limited-overs cricket, which has a reason as well; we didn’t change ourselves to adapt to modern cricket. But in Tests it is relatively easier to rise, because it hasn’t changed that much. Test cricket has been played for 150 years and it has always been played in one spirit and one style of game. It was easy and of course our experienced players like Younis Khan, Misbah, Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam-ul-Haq in the last few years have all contributed really well.
“In recent times, there are so many players who have come through my era. Players like Saeed Ajmal, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Yasir Shah have done a great job to take Pakistan to certain level and it gives me immense happiness for them as I feel like a father figure to them. It gives me goosebumps thinking about what they have achieved. I hope they continue this for long, and keep the country’s name up and alive at the top of the world.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @kalson