FORMER captain Misbahul Haq’s recent appointment as the national cricket team’s head coach-cum-chief selector, though widely welcomed in cricketing circles, is perhaps the veteran player’s stiffest challenge yet.
Misbah, who enjoys an impeccable reputation and wields tremendous authority in Pakistan cricket, has been hailed as the best choice for the key post after the Pakistan Cricket Board decided to part ways with South African coach Mickey Arthur following the lacklustre World Cup campaign.
Challenges are not new to battle-hardened Misbah, who fought his way into the national team in 2001 and rose to become its most successful captain.
Handed the reins of the team soon after the nasty 2010 spot-fixing scam tarnished the country’s cricket image, Misbah helped the team regroup and rebuild in a brilliant fashion.
The former captain has expressed his resolve to bring professionalism back to the ranks of the national team, in both performance as well as physical fitness of the players.
However, with no prior experience in either coaching or selection matters, it is a new beginning for Misbah by all counts. Both are controversy-prone jobs given the erratic ways of Pakistan cricket.
Some former players have expressed reservations about how Misbah being saddled with two full-time duties could eventually prove to be his undoing — an argument that holds weight.
Given his temperament and his adeptness with the modern-day game, Misbah is likely to enjoy the best of relations with whoever is leading the team.
However, there is a very fine line between how the two protagonists need to act; the coach is at best peripheral, largely managing off-the-field affairs, devising strategy, sorting problems, boosting confidence, etc.
How cricket is played in the middle, though, is the sole prerogative of the captain — and it is here that Misbah needs to be discreet as chief selector.
He should always be seen as a consultant and not an ‘interfering influence’ by the captain, or else either of the two might be shown the door sooner rather than later.
Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2019