KARACHI: The look of despair was quite noticeable on beleaguered Misbah-ul-Haq’s face on Wednesday. The head coach offered no excuses after Pakistan were embarrassingly overwhelmed in the One-day International series with the depleted England side recording a famous clean sweep.
Led by Ben Stokes, England — classified by experts as the ‘C’ side after the first-choice squad was forced into self-isolate following seven positive Covid-19 tests among the players and support staff — stunned the Babar Azam-led Pakistan team in all three ODIs.
“No one can defend such an appalling show. It was extremely poor and disappointing performance. We just couldn’t handle the conditions in the first two matches [Pakistan being bundled out for scores of 141 and 195]. It was simply not on, to be honest,” Misbah told reporters while addressing a virtual post-series conference shortly before the Pakistan squad left Birmingham for Nottingham, which hosts the first T20 International on Friday.
“We put up a decent total [331-9] in the last game on the back of fine innings from Babar [a dazzling 158] and [Mohammad] Rizwan . It was a kind of score which, in my view, we should have defended but didn’t.
“Overall, it was a bitterly disappointing effort from us in all departments, especially in the bowling while our fielding was pathetic to say the least throughout the series. Therefore, it would be absurd to defend our performance in the [ODI] series. The bowling was just as poor and someone like Faheem Ashraf was completely off-colour, which was surprising since he was very good in South Africa.”
Misbah, who replaced Mickey Arthur as the head coach after the 2019 50-over World Cup, negated the impression Pakistan are among the weak sides in international cricket, while recalling the victorious series this year.
“I don’t think one can rate Pakistan among the struggling teams, and if we look in the recent past Pakistan won six series in succession across all formats. We beat South Africa for times this year both home and away. Collectively as a unit we put great performances against them,” he reminisced.
“To a large extent we thought that our team was progressing on the right track. But coming to this series it appears as if we are back to square one, which is very disappointing. Having said that we just have to find solutions to ascertain as to how we are going to bounce back and also analyze why all of a sudden we went wrong against this England side.
“I don’t know what happened in the gap between the last series and since there was no competitive cricket except the [reminder of] Pakistan Super League. It’s definitely worrying sign for me as the head coach because I and the rest of coaching staff are equally to be blamed as the players if the team fails to perform.
“Obviously, when we make plans and the onus is on the players to execute them in the field but I’m a firm believer that it’s a team game and everyone involved has to shoulder the responsibility. And when certain plans are not executed, then there’s no excuse. At times, if batting clicks, poor fielding, such as yesterday [Tuesday] cost us dearly because on a pitch where there’s nothing for the bowlers and the batters are scoring 7-8 runs per over and if you start spilling catches at crucial stages, then you are clearly asking for trouble.
Misbah also lamented that lack of professionalism in all spheres of Pakistan cricket was another cause for concern which undermined the development of the international team.
“If you take a look at England, you’ll find there is a proper setup in place and that’s why they are very lucky and in a luxurious position to call upon a huge pool of players when selecting the national side,” the former Pakistan captain stressed.
“Whereas, we don’t have that sort of system and that is the reason we often struggle to find players for certain spots at the time of selection. And as all know that our middle-order batting is was problematic during the white-ball series against South Africa, which had been a major issue for a while now because the guys rushed into the side haven’t been able to settle down. At times, we have no choice but to pick those specialists who do well in domestic competitions,” Misbah added.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2021