ISLAMABAD: With the holding of the ICC Test Championship mace an event of the distant past, former world champions Pakistan set their sights on direct qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 when they take on the in-form reigning world champions and number-one ranked Australia in a five-ODI series starting in Brisbane on Friday (tomorrow). Pakistan are presently in serious danger of failing to qualify directly for the ICC’s pinnacle 50-over tournament in the United Kingdom as they are sitting in eighth position on 89 points - two behind Bangladesh and two ahead of the West Indies. Hosts England and the seven highest-ranked sides on the ICC ODI Team Rankings as on September 30, 2017 will qualify directly for the event proper to be held from May 30 to July 15, 2019. The four bottom-ranked sides will be joined by six teams from the ICC World Cricket League in the 10-team ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 and the top two sides will complete the 10-team World Cup line-up.
To, at least, maintain their pre-series ranking points, Pakistan need to win one match of the series, while victories in more than one match will earn them crucial points. If Pakistan win two matches, then they will join Bangladesh on 91 points but will be ranked behind their Asian rivals by a fraction. In the scenario of Pakistan winning the series, they will move ahead of Bangladesh and, as such, will enhance their chances of qualifying directly for the event they won in Australia in 1992.
On the other side of the coin, Australia will retain their pre-series points if they win the series 4-1, while they will concede one point if they win 3-2. Australia can fall from the top pedestal but to make it happen, Pakistan will have to win by 4-1 or better. However, considering that Australia lead Pakistan 33-16 on a head-to-head in their backyard, including 15 wins in 19 ODIs this decade, this looks highly improbable.
Meanwhile, third-ranked India take on fifth-ranked England in a three-ODI series starting in Pune on Sunday (January 15). While India will be aiming to narrow the gap with second-ranked South Africa, England will be targeting an upward movement. India can rise to as high as 114 points if they sweep the series, but if the series result is reversed, then England can move up one place to fourth and India can slide to fifth.
In the ICC ODI Player Rankings, newly appointed India captain Virat Kohli has number-one ranked AB de Villiers of South Africa firmly within his sights. The Delhi batsman, who led India to victory in the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2008 in Malaysia, trails the South Africa star by 13 points. David Warner, who destroyed Pakistan’s bowling in Sydney, is ranked third - just two points behind Kohli. England’s Joe Root is seventh, whereas Pakistan’s highest-ranked batsman is Babar Azam in 15th position.
Mitchell Starc, who was the Player of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, will start as the highest-ranked bowler in the upcoming One-day International matches. He trails New Zealand’s number-one ranked Trent Boult by 13 points. England’s Adil Rashid will start in fifth position, India’s Amit Mishra will begin in 12th spot and 39th-ranked Wahab Riaz of Pakistan is his side’s highest-ranked bowler.
Australia v Pakistan
Jan 13 - 1st ODI, Brisbane
Jan 15 - 2nd ODI, Melbourne
Jan 19 - 3rd ODI, Perth
Jan 22 - 4th ODI, Sydney
Jan 26 - 5th ODI, Adelaide