Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq on Wednesday received the prestigious Test Championship mace for inspiring his side to the top of the Test team rankings for the first time since the introduction of the current rankings system.Â
The International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive David Richardson presented the mace to Misbah at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore and the skipper said it was befitting that the mace presentation was taking place at the home of Pakistan cricket.
Jubilant after receiving the honour, Misbah said, "There can't be a better location to receive the ICC Test Championship mace than this ground where we last played a home Test seven years ago. It is ironic for both the players as well as the fans that the journey to the number-one position has been 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," he added.
Misbah added he was delighted to hold the mace in the twilight of his career.
"It has always been a dream to lift an ICC trophy as captain. To be only the ninth international captain to achieve this honour in the traditional format of the game is something to be very proud of. This mace is a reward for the efforts and hard work of each and every individual who has been part of this group over the past few years."
Pakistan is only the fifth side after Australia, England, India and South Africa to top the Test rankings, while Misbah is the ninth captain to lift the mace after Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith (all from Australia), MS Dhoni (India), Andrew Strauss (England), Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla (both South Africa).
Richardson congratulated the Pakistan cricket team, saying: "The ICC Test Championship mace is a symbol of excellence and a recognition of a side's outstanding performance in the purest format of the game. Being part of a team that is ranked No.1 in Test cricket is a pinnacle achievement for any cricketer. Pakistan is a deserving recipient of the mace.
"It is all the more impressive that it has reached the number-one Test ranking despite not being able to play a series in front of its home crowd since March 2009.
"On behalf of the ICC, I want to congratulate the Pakistan cricket team and Misbah-ul-Haq in particular for the way he has led his side. I hope that the team continues to go from strength to strength. A strong Pakistan side is good for international cricket."
Richardson said the upcoming weeks will continue to be as exciting and entertaining for Test cricket fans.
"The top four ranked sides are separated by just three points and they will be playing in the coming weeks. The contest for the number-one position gives great context to the upcoming series, providing fascinating entertainment for followers of the Test cricket," he said.
Number-two ranked India will host New Zealand in a three-Test series from Thursday and if it wins the series, it will move to the top of the table even before Pakistan starts its three-Test series against the West Indies on October 13.
Misbah admitted his side will have to produce strong performances to finish as the number-one ranked Test side at the April 1 cut-off date.
"The next target we have set for ourselves is to finish as the number-one ranked Test side at the 1 April cut-off date. 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," Misbah concluded.
Pakistan's Test series against the West Indies will begin in Dubai on October 13, while Christchurch will be the venue of the first of the two-match series on November 17. The three-Test series in Australia will start with the day/night Test in Brisbane on December 15.