PAKISTAN head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq (second L) waits to shake hands with President Arif Alvi at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.—AP
PAKISTAN head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq (second L) waits to shake hands with President Arif Alvi at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.—AP

LAHORE: While accepting responsibility for the ultra-shocking Twenty20 series whitewash top-ranked Pakistan suffered against a modest-looking Sri Lankan side, head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq on Wednesday night said he was simply clueless as to what caused the embarrassing crash of Sarfraz Ahmed and his men on home turf.

“Definitely it [T20 series loss] is my responsibility. But again I think what happened in the series is a big question for all of us, we can’t understand. The same players who made Pakistani No.1 [in T20 Internationals] are playing but we are clueless as to what went wrong,” Misbah said at the post-match press conference alongside Sarfraz after Pakistan’s embarrassing 13-run loss in the third T20 International here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Wednesday.

“Maybe I did something? Probably I made our right-hand batsmen switch to left-handed batting or maybe made our right-armers bowl with the left-arm?” he said sarcastically.

Sarfraz insists players need to take responsibility

While plainly admitting that the Islanders had outplayed the hosts in the series, Misbah said the Pakistan camp had a lot to do for improvement in all departments.

“To put it simply, Sri Lanka outclassed us in all departments. They set an example for all of us. We have been wiped out in all departments, it was a one-sided T20 series. We have to work on many things and many questions are left to be answered,” Misbah stated.

“Disappointing, it is all disappointing. For the last many years the same players have been playing but now such problems are nothing but pathetic. We are as much concerned as you [media] are. We allowed a debutant [Oshada Fernando] to play a big knock, and we allowed them to reach 147 in the third T20 after reducing them to 58-4. We played very bad cricket,” he said.

Responding to a query about Sarfraz’s poor form with the bat, Misbah said the performance of the entire team of 11 players need to be looked into.

“How can you point out that the wicket-keeper was not good? Were the [remaining] ten players good enough?” Misbah questioned.

Misbah, who started operating as national team head coach-cum-chief selector recently, added, “I took charge only 10 days ago, what kind of coaching of players I could do [in these days] which brought this result.”

Interestingly, Misbah mentioned Shoaib Malik and Hafeez as better players of spin bowling than some of the batsmen of the current team, hinting the experienced duo may return for next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

“Media should also anaylse that how in one stroke we reject a certain player. Our players lack in handling spinners while both Malik and Hafeez are far better players of spin,” he said.

Defending leg-spinner Shadab Khan’s below-par performance against Sri Lanka, the head coach said the country had no wrist spinner in the back-up.

“In fact, there is no back-up of Yasir Shah also,” Misbah lamented. “[Therefore], I will focus more on the upcoming National T20 Cup tournament to find out their back-up.”

Meanwhile, Sarfraz speaking at the presser said the T20 series whitewash is a wake-up call for Pakistan.

“If you see throughout the series we did not play good cricket. Many weaknesses have been noted and there is a need to work on them. It [the series loss] is an eye-opener for us. They [Sri Lanka] played good cricket and deserved to win,” Sarfraz said.

The players, the skipper emphasised, will have to show responsibility on the field.

He went on to say, “This Sri Lankan side is a young team which taught us how to play cricket. We have played that kind of cricket in the past.”

“People blame the team management [for the defeats], that is true [to some extent]. However, the players also have to show responsibility. The management did its hard work to prepare the players but on the ground if they don’t click [on the match day] what can the team management do,” Sarfraz wondered.

To a question, Sarfraz rejected the impression that he was under some sort of pressure.

“When your team is not performing well it may disturb your mind but I am not under any pressure,” the captain insisted. “I came to bat [in the third T20] at No.4 when a well-set Haris Sohail was at the crease. Unfortunately, Haris lost his wicket after two overs and the wicket was not conducive to start hard-hitting without being settled, as the required run-rate accelerated,” he elaborated.

Misbah denied that the second-wicket partnership (of 76 runs) between Haris and Babar in the third T20 did not favour Pakistan.

“It is wrong that Haris and Babar were batting to protect their places in the team,” the head coach said. “Both are high-profile players having confirmed places. In fact, they could not adapt to the pitch; they tried to increase the scoring-rate but failed.”

About excluding opener Abid Ali from the T20 playing XI, Misbah said the right-hander had to prove his credentials as a useful player of the shortest format in the upcoming National T20 Cup starting in Faisalabad on Oct 13.

Commenting on the T20 series, Sri Lanka coach Rumesh Ratnayake said the memorable victory would significantly inspire youngsters and other cricketers back home.

“The triumph is a result of hard work done by our bowlers and batsmen. Otherwise, Pakistan have loads of cricketing talent,” Ratnayake said. “We in the past played in Pakistan against some great bowlers and batsmen. The country can surely produce more fine cricketers like them.”

To a question, Ratnayake hoped after this victory against Pakistan the Sri Lankan players would maintain consistency in their performance to win against England, South Africa and other strong teams.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019