For many years, Pakistan’s biggest rivals were not their opponents, but their own players.
Castigated for a lack of unity, consistency and awareness of the pitfalls in the game, some of Pakistan’s most talented players went into oblivion.
The spot-fixing scandal of 2010 destroyed the careers of three of Pakistan’s most exciting talents in Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir.
Instead of trading on their enormous talent, the three are now serving jail sentences on charges of defrauding bookmakers by bowling deliberate no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England two years ago.
Meanwhile, express paceman Shoaib Akhtar fell well short of being remembered for his bowling, with failed dope tests and skirmishes with his own teammates, as well as his country’s cricket board.
However, since the spot-fixing scandal, Pakistan’s decision to appoint Misbah-ul-Haq as captain has proved inspired and the side have not looked back, beating the world’s best team England by 10 wickets in the first Test on Thursday.
Misbah said he has tried to introduce the missing virtues of unity, discipline and focus into the team.
“The biggest virtue of this team is focus and once you focus on the job in hand, which we have done in the past 18 months, you tend to do well,” said Misbah, who has not lost a Test series since taking over in October 2010.
Misbah said every player is selfless, quoting an example on the third day of the first Test against England.
“You can judge the unity by the fact that Abdul Rehman himself came to me and asked to be replaced by Saeed Ajmal, so that he [Ajmal] could get the third wicket needed to complete his 10 in the match,” Misbah said.
Ajmal, who took a career-best 7-55 in the first innings, completed a 10-wicket match haul as Pakistan dismissed England for 160, before scoring the 15 runs needed for victory.
That gave Pakistan a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series. The second Test starts in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Former coach Waqar Younis and current interim coach Mohsin Khan have also played their part admirably.
“Before taking over, I told the players that they needed to be focused, avoid anything which could bring a bad name to the country, and show unity off and on the field, and I am happy that they have done this,” Mohsin said.
Misbah believes the win against England will put Pakistan on the right track.
“We are trying to become the best team in the world,” Misbah, 37, said. “We want to be on the top. We know we are still a long way off, but we have the will and the focus to become the world’s best.”
The lack of management on the part of cricket administration has also been Pakistan’s weak point, often derailing the team’s progress in the past, but since the spot-fixing scandal, the International Cricket Council came down hard on the Pakistan Cricket Board, forcing them to put in place strict measures.
The team’s successes, coupled with a new sense of discipline, have given them a chance to put their cricket house in order.