LAHORE: Pakistan cricket team’s head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq on Monday expressed regret over the results of the recently concluded series against England but claimed that the team is on the right track and will soon overcome the shortcomings that have been noticed on the tour, especially in the bowling department.
“The tour of England was very important for not only Pakistan and England but the entire cricketing world in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Misbah while addressing a presser at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday. “When I summarise this tour, then as a team and as a coach, we regret the results that we ended up with. For me, the result in the Test series should have been 1-0 in Test and 2-0 in T20 in Pakistan’s favour. But we did not achieve that and that will always remain a regret.”
It may be mentioned here that Pakistan lost the Test series to England 1-0 while the T20 series ended at 1-1 with the first match washed out. Rain had a major part to play in curtailing the matches and did not allow the teams to play consistent cricket throughout.
‘We have to give time to our young pacers to come good’
“Overall, we should look back in terms of cricket we played in hard times (due to Covid-19). How we prepared from zero level to play very competitive cricket. Thirty players were in England without much preparations and now see our performance in that backdrop,” said Misbah, while defending the team’s performance.
“We dominated most sessions of the first Test (before losing it) and we set 190 plus targets for England twice and we also defended in the third T20 and which is appreciable because we fought back after being one match down,” he said.
To a question Misbah said that everyone plays to win but sometime something goes wrong when you are on the verge of victory. After that one can only look to make amends and not repeat mistakes in the future games.”
“Our mistakes are quite visible and the inexperienced bowling attack was exposed when it was attacked, especially at that crucial stage at Old Trafford when we were so close to victory. But as our bowlers are young, we have to give them time to be matured with the passage of time. Asking these young guns to put up performances like James Anderson and Stuart Broad is not fair really,” he said.
When reminded that Pakistan’s standing in world cricket rankings is poorer in all three formats now ffrom the time he took over a year ago, Misbah defended himself and said: “If anyone says the team has started losing now, I would like to tell them that before I joined it and despite being at the top of the world T20 rankings, Pakistan lost to South Africa and England.”
“Look unfortunately, our top performers in T20 like Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan – whose roles were vital in bringing Pakistan atop in T20 rankings – have all gone through a bad patch and that has resulted in bringing Pakistan down in the shorter format. But the way we played against England in the T20s is heartening because we have shown spark and this team will go better and better with the passage of time,” said Misbah.
Asked why he was not consulted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in the appointment of six provincial cricket team coaches recently and whether it is an indirect message to him that he may soon be relieved from his job as chief selector, Misbah said:”I was busy on a very important tour and I was not in touch with the PCB. But as the time is short, these appointments were necessary to be made as domestic season will be commencing soon.”
“Now I will sit with Nadeem Khan (Director National High Performance Centre) to have a briefing on the entire process,” he added.
When queried that one of the newly-appointed coaches Faisal Iqbal, a former Test cricketer, had criticised him in the past so how does he foresee working with him, Misbah said in a professional set up it was essential to work for the future by ignoring the past.
“We have played together but now we have to work on professional lines which just requires us to have a look at the performance of each official in their new roles,” he said.
Misbah, who remains Pakistan’s most successful captain, also negated the impression that Babar Azam as T20 captain had no free hand in taking decisions. “Babar is a powerful captain, having the authority to take the decisions on his own. I believe until a captain does not take independent decisions, he can’t learn the ropes fast enough.”
To several questions regarding mistakes made in picking the playing XI for matches in England, Misbah said selection is always made keeping in view the circumstances and conditions and not just by preferring any individual.
To a question Misbah said three seniors players – Muhamamd Hafeez, Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz – had the capability to continue till the next year’s T20 World Cup. “Hafeez and Wahab have proved that with their last two years’ performances while Shoaib has all the talent required for the modern day cricket,” he said.
“The big job for us is to pick a team with a right balance and that we will achieve before the World Cup 2021,” he predicted.
He praised the young fast bowling pair of Nasim Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi, declaring them as the best fast bowlers of their age inn international cricket.
Asked if former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmad had played his farewell match (3rd T20 against England) as he was given a chance in place of prolific wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan, Misbah strongly denied the impression: “You can’t sideline a cricketer on the performance of just one match. He did a good job on the tour, doing a lot of hard work in training sessions and intra-squad matches. But Rizwan is our number one choice at the moment and after him Sarfaraz is the second best keeper and has enough cricket left in him to contribute in future series,” observed Misbah.
He also did not did not agree with the question that the heavy support staff was not handling things adequately. “It is not an easy job to handle 30 players on such a long tour. The experience support staff in fact proved beneficial in conducting the training..”
To a question he said he could not determine what the critics term as defensive or aggressive approach in cricket. “When a team scores 190-plus runs in T20 cricket, if a team decides to bat first after winning the toss in English conditions, and when you make three changes after losing a Test, is that a defensive or aggressive approach?” asked Misbah.
To a question about Asad Shafiq’s poor run with the bat in the Test series, the former captain said unfortunately the middle-order batsman was going through a bad patch but he still had a significant role to play in the Pakistan team.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2020