Defiant Misbah calls for calm ahead of South Africa Tests

Published January 25, 2021
Embattled Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq appealed on Sunday for calm after recent upheavals over his future with the national side. — Photo courtesy PCB/File
Embattled Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq appealed on Sunday for calm after recent upheavals over his future with the national side. — Photo courtesy PCB/File

KARACHI: Embattled Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq appealed on Sunday for calm after recent upheavals over his future with the national side as his charges prepare for the forthcoming first Test against South Africa.

Addressing a virtual media conference following a team practice session at the National Stadium, Misbah appeared unruffled and refused to speculate on his immediate future after Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ehsan Mani brought in the former national side captain on a three-year deal after Mickey Arthur had completed his tenure at the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.

“I don’t think that we should be talking about the future because [as the head coach] we are preparing for a challenge series against South Africa, who I rate as tough opponents. Speculations and rumours at this point in time should be put on a backburner,” Misbah said in a tone of defiance. “I have never backed out from challenges because I had always played cricket under pressure. I’m not sure what will happen but I will say that the [South Africa] won’t series won’t decide my future.”

Misbah, however, did say that Pakistan need to improve their game drastically in the aftermath of the New Zealand series. “As a coach one can’t expect any security of assurances at all times unless you are performing well. As a unit our entire focus is pinned on the South Africa series. But there are no guarantees, mind you. But after our results in recent months indicate that the team has to perform to the expectations of all concern with Pakistan cricket.

Misbah and bowling coach Waqar Younis are under pressure after the PCB Cricket Committee announced that their performance will come under review after the competition of the upcoming of two Tests and three Twenty20 Internationals against the South Africans.

“My sole wish is that Pakistan do well in the coming matches against one of the top teams. To me it doesn’t matter what they [critics] are saying because in our part of the world, this aspect has always been there,” Misbah reminded.

The head coach said presence of former legends Mohammad Yousuf and Saqlain Mushtaq was a blessing in disguise because the initial 20-man squad for the two Tests as many as nine uncapped players.

“Again there are speculations among the cricketing circles that the PCB have tried trying to undermine our positions in the backroom staff. Younis Khan [batting coach], Waqar and myself are very comfortable with the idea of bringing in Yousuf and Saqlain into the fold for the team’s training sessions,” Misbah explained. “In fact, Yousuf and Saqlain both have been wonderful in every sense of the word. And since we are supervising a squad which is quite larger than usual with nine newcomers there, these two are doing a fabulous job in giving confidence to the boys.

“The main purpose of having Yousuf here is coordinate with the squad; Younis Khan is taking the lead role for the batsmen, whereas Yousuf and I are improving the communication part [with the batsmen] and Younis is also compiling data of each individual.

“Saqlain, on the other hand, is looking after the spinners, especially the new ones [Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan] who have performed exceptionally during the domestic season. The [playing] conditions demand that we prepare our spinners in the best possible environment so that when they get the chance [to play] they should be fully ready and focussed.

“Overall, the atmosphere during the few days we have been training is brilliant and every one of us [the support team and coaches] is feeling relaxed. I believe these kinds of camps work would be beneficial in the long run because when these players go to the NHPC [National High Performance Centre], the coaches who work with them will know what the areas they would be focussing to improve their overall skills.

“Moreover, having Yousuf and Saqlain [who are the NHPC coaches] was planned in advance because after they go back to Lahore [venue of the three T20 games], they will continue to work with some of the players who will be involved in that series while the main backroom staff would be with the Test squad.”

Misbah opined South Africa will be competitive as before when the likes of Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and A.B. de Villiers were around.

“South Africa play hard and their knowledge of playing the spinners are better than we assume, regardless of where we played them in the past. In the UAE, they gave Pakistan tough times and adapted well to the slow pitches there,” Misbah pointed out. “That is one big reason of them being successful in Pakistan on previous tours. Overall, I have respects for them and the current side is no exception. They have very good fat bowlers who know how to get reverse swing and most of their players compete in the IPL {Indian Premier League], so they are used to playing on turning pitches.

“But having said that, the opportunity is upon us to play good cricket throughout if we want to win against the South Africans,” he hoped.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2021

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