Pakistan have been playing hide-and-seek with the ICC ODI rankings for quite some time now. They were the fifth-ranked team before the start of their home series against New Zealand in April this year but became the top-ranked ODI side for the first time in their history since the rankings were officially accepted by ICC in 2005, after winning four matches on the bounce. Their stay was short-lived after New Zealand won the fifth and the final ODI. Pakistan, however, were back on top after getting off to a flying start in the Asia Cup. But since then, things went south for the Babar Azam-led side.
From being one of the favourites to win the Asia Cup, Pakistan could not even reach the finals. They not only lost their No.1 ranking but doubts were also raised about their future in World Cup 2023. The doubts proved to be true. After losing four matches on the trot, Pakistan now are one defeat away from getting knocked out of the tournament. Even if they win their remaining three matches, they still will have to look at the results of other matches to go their way to stand a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.
What went wrong for Pakistan? How come one of the favourites to the title are struggling to even make the semi-finals? Pakistan head coach Grant Bradburn says there should not be any favourites in a 10-team tournament. “Look I’m not sure where you get favourites from because there are 10 teams in this tournament, there’s 150 cricketers who are the best on the planet,” he said on the eve of Pakistan’s must-win match against Bangladesh in Kolkata.
For Bradburn, the ICC rankings are “skewed”. “In terms of the ICC rankings, we know they are skewed because we don’t get to play India, we don’t get to play a lot of the top nations who haven’t been to Pakistan of late,” he said.
‘Pakistan team yet to be the best in the world’: Bradburn
The former New Zealand off-spinner said Pakistan are yet to become the best team in the world as they don’t get to take play teams like India in their own backyard. “We were number five in April, we became number one recently before the tournament, and that might be where you term the phrase favourites. But we’re realistic. We have not been the best in the world as yet, so which highlights where we are in this tournament right now. We have no divine right to beat anyone in this tournament. We have to play quality cricket, and we have to put all three departments of our game together. We are desperate to bring joy to our nation. We are desperate to make our nation very proud of this cricket team. And we are also realistic in the knowledge that we haven’t put all departments of our game together over the last four games but four losses do not define who we are as players, as coaches or a team,” he added.
To qualify for the semi-finals, Pakistan first need to get to 10 points by winning their remaining three matches against Bangladesh, New Zealand and England. They also need to win them comprehensively to improve their net run rate. If they manage to do that then they will have to hope that the results of the Australia, New Zealand and Afghanistan matches go in their favour.
Bradburn admitted that it’s not an ideal scenario but promised to put up a good show for the fans.
“We’re in a position that we didn’t want to be. We were determined at this stage of the tournament to be in control of our destiny but we’re not. That hurts the group and all we can do now is control what we can control, and that is prepare well for three remaining pool games and then allow fate to be hopefully leaning on us in terms of our semi-final hopes from there.
“But we wanted to be in control. We’re not, and that’s the reality that we’ve faced, and that’s certainly hurt the group, and there’s been a lot of disappointment over the last period of time.”