‘Team needs confidence, continuity and no uncertainty’

Published January 12, 2021
PAKISTAN head coach Misbah-ul-Haq addresses a media conference at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday.—PCB
PAKISTAN head coach Misbah-ul-Haq addresses a media conference at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday.—PCB

LAHORE: Amid growing speculations about trouble that he and other team management personnel may face after a disastrous tour to New Zealand, Pakistan’s head coach Misbah-ul-Haq though guarded about his future emphasised on Monday the team needs “confidence, continuity and no uncertainty”.

“We need confidence, continuity and no uncertainty because things take time to improve,” Misbah said while answering a question during a media conference here at the Gaddafi Stadium after reaching Lahore from a miserable tour to New Zealand where Pakistan lost both the Twenty20 and Test series.

Misbah and bowling coach Waqar Younis have come under heavy criticism from all quarters as the national team flopped in every department during what proved a forgettable tour to New Zealand. After losing the T20 series 1-2, the tourists suffered a 0-2 clean sweep in the Test rubber. Wicket-keeper/batsman Mohammad Rizwan, in the absence of injured Babar Azam, led Pakistan in both the series.

“One thing is scrutiny and the other is analysis. The PCB has the right to do analysis and there should be no communication gap [between the team and the PCB]. There is a need to understand the issues to make things better,” Misbah remarked as he faced a barrage of questions from reporters.

Former skipper Misbah, 46, was appoi­nted as head coach and chief selector for three years in 2019 but he stepped down as chief selector amid mounting criticism prior to the series in New Zealand while continued with the role of head coach.

Meanwhile, Misbah and Waqar will appear before the PCB cricket committee on Tuesday, as part of a major review the committee is going to make, starting from Pakistan’s tour to England last summer.

Interestingly, national team’s batting coach Younis Khan has not been invited by the committee even though the team’s batting performance on the just-concluded New Zealand tour and before that has remained highly disappointing.

The head coach said he had simply no idea what the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting with the cricket committee would be.

“I can’t assume what the cricket committee will ask me. They must have some points in their mind to share with us and we will give them answers, our report, and recommendations; then it will be between them [cricket committee] and the PCB. I hope there will be no type of grilling as we have to work together,” he said.

Answering a question, Misbah reiterated that Covid-19 restrictions had hampered the team’s show in New Zealand.

“While it is disappointing that the end results are not in Pakistan’s favour in our last three away series [in Australia during November 2019, England and New Zealand] but there are many positives and second the Covid-19 restrictions have their own impact on the performances,” the head coach.

“Look New Zealanders are not going through a bio-secure bubble as their country is Covid-19 free. On the other hand, the Pakistan players have endured a six-month period, from one bubble to another,” he maintained.

“In New Zealand, we start training three days after the arrival but [this time] due to the positive Covid-19 test of some Pakistan players the isolation period spread over 18 days,” the coach continued.

“Those who know the game of cricket will understand my points well as to how difficult it is for a player to live in a room for such a long time and then after one-week training you face one of the world’s best teams.

“All prominent coaches including Mark Boucher [South Africa], Mickey Arthur [Sri Lanka] and Ravi Shastri [India] are facing problems as their players’ performances are affected by the bio-secure bubble issues caused by Covid-19 pandemic.

“Still Pakistan, barring the second Test [in New Zealand], exhibited good fight in the first Test in which we were near earning a respectable draw. The same situation was there in the T20 series where our players did well,” he highlighted.

“Ironically, the injury problems, particularly to our captain and key player Babar Azam, and the exit of Fakhar Zaman [due to fever] from the team were major disappointments and had a negative impact on the team’s performance,” he said.

“We lost a Test match in England [first Test, Manchester] from a winning situation last summer and had we won, it would have been a very positive sign for Pakis­tan,” Misbah said retrospectively.

However, he said, when a team ended up on the losing side despite having earned No.1 ranking in the ICC Test rankings that was disappointing,” the head coach said, referring to Pakistan Test team’s brief rise under Misbah’s captaincy to the top on ICC rankings.

“I believe all the coaches and players were giving their best but dropped catches and below par bowling and batting were demand more from the entire team. I hope with the passage of time they will overcome the problems.”

To a question, Misbah claimed that Pakistan’s performance was better against the Black Caps, if anyone compared it with other teams which toured New Zealand during the last two and a half years.

Besides praising the batting performances of Azhar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan and Faheem Ashraf, the head coach reckoned Faheem also proved as a good all-rounder on the New Zealand tour.

About any conflict with fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who last month announced retirement from international cricket alleging inappropriate attitude of the team management towards him, Misbah said nothing was personal against Amir.

“I would advise Amir instead of retiring, bring improvement in his performance to get back in the team as neither I nor Waqar have any grudge against him,” Misbah stated.

On the forthcoming home series against South Africa, Misbah said there would a plan in place for the series which, he hoped, would increase the players’ confidence level to give improved performance.

The series starts with the opening Test in Karachi on Jan 26.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2021

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