‘Cricketing world must do more to help end Pakistan’s isolation in the game’

Published September 26, 2019
KARACHI: Pitch is covered after rain at the National Stadium on Wednesday.—APP
KARACHI: Pitch is covered after rain at the National Stadium on Wednesday.—APP

KARACHI: Pakistan’s head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq on Wednesday made a fervent appeal to the world cricketing community to do more for the country in its bid to stage full-time international matches on home soil while forewarning his charges not take the new look Sri Lanka side lightly in the upcoming limited-overs series.

Addressing his maiden media conference at the National Stadium on Wednesday after Pakistan team’s practice session was cancelled following heavy rains for the second successive day in the mega city, Misbah made it clear that in the prevailing scenario, it would be fair that Pakistan shouldn’t be isolated as far playing series on home soil is concerned

“I think the situation everywhere these days is more or less the same. Pakistan has done the best it can do to provide peaceful and safe environment where people can live in peace and enjoy their lives. In sporting terms, I firmly believe all of us in the cricketing world need to do more to have more countries playing in Pakistan,” the 45-year-old Misbah who retired in 2017 as Pakistan’s most successful Test captain, said.

“As a sportsman, my conviction is that cricket, or for that matter any other sport, shouldn’t suffer just of the fears the foreigners have in their minds. We are living in a world where at present no place or country can be considered completely incident free of hundred per cent safe but, of course, the very best level of security and hospitality can be ensured for the visiting teams and officials.

“Look we are all performing our rituals in our day-to-day life without being fearful. Cricket is a passion in Pakistan and is a sport that brings people closer. Sri Lanka has always supported and helped Pakistan in every possible way to end the cricketing isolation at the international level. They are true ambassadors of their country and by coming to Pakistan now they have further strengthened the great friendship our two nations have always enjoyed,” he added.

The former skipper went on to add: “Our ultimate goal is to make sure more teams visit Pakistan because playing at neutral venues [like in the UAE] is or was never an ideal solution to the problems we have had faced over the past decade or so. Believe me, both I and my team members are very excited to be playing in front of our own fans because their presence inspire you hugely. This feeling was non-existent in the years of isolation and we badly missed the camaraderie and the fanfare that every host team got or gets. The crowd definitely lifts one’s game and can give the inspiration to the players to perform at their best.

PAKISTAN head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq gestures during a news conference at the National Stadium on Wednesday.—Tahir Jamal/White Star
PAKISTAN head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq gestures during a news conference at the National Stadium on Wednesday.—Tahir Jamal/White Star

“We really do appreciate the tremendous gesture shown by Sri Lanka because it wasn’t an easy decision for them [about touring Pakistan] to take in the prevailing circumstances. And personally speaking, this series against Sri Lanka revives long memories because I had participated as a player the last time they visited Pakistan in 2009. Although my role obviously has changed with the passage of time, but the passion of being involved in the game has never gone out of me.

“Guys like Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam and the rest of the players are looking forward to the coming matches, which I am sure everyone should enjoy provided the weather stays fine.”

On his assessment of the young Sri Lankan team, Misbah said it is always dangerous to underestimate the opposition even if it is playing without the top stars.

“They [Sri Lanka] might have come without a number of top players but when you have a new look team like theirs, you just can’t afford to get complacent or take them on lightly. Underdogs or no underdogs we won’t relax one bit in the coming matches,” he reiterated.

“And sometimes there is the temptation to rotate the playing XI in a series such as this one. But my ideology on this topic is quite on the contrary. All players in the squad should think themselves that they are part of the playing XI all the time. Because that kind of approach can lead to a feeling of togetherness and encourage the boys to be on their toes and ready to play even at the shortest of notices,” he said.

Commenting on the structural changes instituted from the start of this season, Misbah observed it was imperative for Pakistan cricket to embrace the new system. “The [dual] role assigned to me carries heavy responsibilities. My focus is not only confined to the Pakistan team[s] but also to the domestic tournaments. The head coaches of the provincial sides are part of the selection committee under my charge and they are given the task to give feedback of top performing players after each match on specially-devised proforma in which they will give their assessments of each and every aspect, on issues from fitness level to the players’ discipline,” elaborated Misbah.

“The vision of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is very clear — to cut down quantity and put complete focus on quality. The new system needs time to settle down. But when you have the quantum focus on quality, the level of competition automatically goes up because at the end of the day we are purely focussing on making the players mentally tough.

“This is the vision and target we have set and hopefully Pakistan would have quality players coming through the new system. Another key aspect of this mission is to have a decent crop of fast bowlers available for selection whenever there is a need for replacements,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2019

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