In an interview with PakPassion.net, Misbah-ul-Haq spoke about his disappointment with regards to the recently concluded Test series in New Zealand and Australia, reasons behind not retiring after the successful Test series against England, the expectations from Mohammad Amir and Yasir Shah to succeed and why he feels that the PSL 2017 final needs to be held in Lahore.
By Saj Sadiq (23rd January, 2017)
PakPassion.net : Why do you feel that the preparations for the New Zealand and Australia tours were poor and inadequate?
Misbah-ul-Haq : As you know, we played a series against West Indies in UAE and at its conclusion, we pretty much jumped on to a flight and flew off to New Zealand. The conditions in both countries are completely different so that didn’t help our situation either.
Unfortunately, we did not have the time for preparations for this tour in the same way we had for the England tour. You cannot blame anyone for this but the fact is that we had a busy schedule. The only warm-up game we had in New Zealand was washed out and then we went in to play Tests where we immediately came under pressure. The same scenario played out in Australia where we simply lacked the time to prepare for the Test series. It was completely different for our England tour where we had two side games and ample time to prepare ourselves. The other point I would like to make is that Pakistan was visiting Australia after such a long time that it is not simply possible to perform at the highest level for most of the players without spending a longer length of time in those countries before the start of the series.
PakPassion.net : Do you think the reaction from some former Pakistan players to the 3-0 Test series loss in Australia has been too harsh?
Misbah-ul-Haq : It goes without saying that whenever you lose a series in the manner in which we did and fail to perform as we demonstrated in the final innings in Melbourne then it is obvious that you will be faced with criticism. In a way, it is expected and you should not be surprised or take it to heart. You cannot fail in the way we did in Melbourne where we lost the game after declaring for 443 in the first innings and then expect not to be taken to task in the media. That criticism was justified. Whether some people went overboard or not is not for me to decide or comment upon as I was in Australia and not paying attention to such stuff on television and other media.
PakPassion.net : Mickey Arthur has been criticised for his show of emotions during games. Do you think this criticism is fair?
Misbah-ul-Haq : Every coach has his own style and nature which he brings to the fore when he takes on the position of the Head Coach. One thing about Mickey is that he never hides his emotions. He is the kind of human who will go overboard with praise when you do well but will also show displeasure when he sees something which he doesn’t like. What he is trying to do is to adjust the culture of the Pakistan team to a more disciplined version where fitness is very important. Overall, Mickey wants to modernise the approach of the Pakistan teams. Of course, this cannot happen overnight and it will take time; it won’t be easy. We really have no choice but to follow this path if we wish to compete with the top teams in the world.
PakPassion.net : Is there a part of you which regrets not announcing your retirement after the end of the England tour last year?
Misbah-ul-Haq : It would have been extremely easy for me at the end of a successful Test series against England to have announced the end of my career. That would have been the selfish thing to do, to avoid the stress of very difficult international tours to New Zealand and Australia. That would have been an easy way out. But what was needed for the Pakistan team at that point in time was for me to take on the challenge of these tough tours despite us being crowned the number one Test team in September. In fact, I was receiving a lot of advice from people to quit and leave on a high note.
To this day, I am convinced that walking away at that time would have been an extremely selfish decision. The kind of message it would have sent to the younger generation would have been that if the tour is a difficult one, simply pack your bags and leave. My view was that I will take on the challenge and go on the tour of Australia. If we end up on the losing side, then so be it - but we will go in with a positive mindset and accept the challenge and fight it out there. The result may or may not have gone in our favour but what we would have shown to the next generation of our cricketers is that just because things looked tougher, we gave up and saved our own reputations. I believe you should make a stand and fight it out without worrying about the results and that is why I decided to stay on as captain and a player after the England tour.
PakPassion.net : So have you now given a thought to your retirement? Have you set yourself a target retirement date?
Misbah-ul-Haq : To be honest, I haven’t made any decision yet. I am still thinking about it as there is still some time to make that call. I will say this, that like always, I am receiving a lot of advice from others about what I should do. Of course, one cannot ignore what is being said on this subject but you really must analyse the situation by yourself. You need to ask yourself if you have the will to continue playing or whether it’s time to call it a day. This is a key factor for me to make the right decision and I will be giving it due consideration.
PakPassion.net : What is tougher at this age, physically preparing for an international tour/match or mentally preparing for it?
Misbah-ul-Haq : I think both aspects are important. You may be physically in top form but if you are not mentally prepared then life can become very difficult. At the end of the day, the mental side of things is crucial. To me, it is important that first you have to get ready mentally to make a commitment that you will go ahead with your plans and then you can work on the physical side of things to back those intentions.
PakPassion.net : Do you have anyone in mind as your successor as the captain of the Pakistan Test team?
Misbah-ul-Haq : This is simply a decision for the Pakistan Cricket Board. We already have Azhar Ali who is the vice-captain of the Test side and Sarfraz Ahmed who is the captain of the T20I side but whoever is chosen as the next captain will need to have the full support of the Pakistan Cricket Board. With time and the backing of the team management, any player can take on this role and learn the skills needed to be the leader. However, once again, let me stress that it is up to the Board to take that decision.
PakPassion.net : There must be huge concerns for the Pakistan Test team once Younis Khan and you retire. Do you think adequate replacements are there and ready to step in?
Misbah-ul-Haq : In a way, this is like when Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq left the team - we did not have their ready replacements as well. Of course, even today, we cannot find exact replacements for such excellent batsmen. But the fact is that players will leave and the youngsters will have to step up and fill the gap and I can assure you that it will happen but it will also take time to make that happen. I am not worried or concerned about who will replace Younis or myself as players will come and go but the places they leave open will be filled by able and talented youngsters.
PakPassion.net : Do you think a lack of County Cricket is hurting the development of Pakistani cricketers?
Misbah-ul-Haq : It is definitely an issue to be addressed as playing in different conditions is very beneficial for our cricketers as it helps them gain experience away from Pakistan. Not just English Country Cricket, it would be great for our players to get chances to regularly play in Australia and South Africa so that they can perform better for Pakistan during future tours of those countries. This way they will have good prior experience of playing in these countries. This would be better than going to somewhere like Australia after a period of six years and start playing Test or ODI cricket almost immediately after arrival. When that happens, by the time they get used to the conditions and get an idea of the local pitches, the series is already over. It is important that the players get ample opportunities to play away from Pakistan before any official tours so that they can represent Pakistan in an effective manner during international assignments.
PakPassion.net : What do you make of Mohammad Amir's bowling since his return to international cricket?
Misbah-ul-Haq : If we analyse his bowling in terms of pace, he is right up there with the very best in the world today. But despite bowling well, the wickets column looks very sparse. Yes, he has been a little unlucky but the lack of wickets is a concern as it did not conform to the expectations of the team. Regardless of that, Amir is working hard and putting in an excellent effort. His bowling speeds are easily in the 140+ KpH range and the more cricket he plays, he should be able to pick more wickets along the way.
PakPassion.net : A lot was expected of Yasir Shah but he failed to make an impact during the Australia tour. Why was that the case?
Misbah-ul-Haq : It’s down to the fact that when one goes into alien conditions, you are bound to struggle. When a bowler has no idea of the pace or the line to bowl in such different conditions then obviously, he comes under tremendous pressure. If the opposition can see this weakness, they will play you better. To be fair, this happens to most spin bowlers when they go to Australia. So, if you want to know why Yasir could not succeed as much as we expected then I would say it was due to lack of exposure and experience in those conditions.
PakPassion.net : Was the workload on Yasir Shah also a factor which contributed to his ineffectiveness on this tour?
Misbah-ul-Haq : This is a correct observation and it stems from the fact that if we don’t have a dependable fifth bowler to share the burden then the pressure comes squarely on the regular bowlers. If a team does not have the luxury of an all-rounder or a batsman who can bowl as well, then such problems can arise. The pressure on the regular bowlers thus becomes immense. In Yasir’s case, if he has to bowl thirty plus overs then his effectiveness is destroyed due to tiredness. We had to face this issue in England as well and we tried to fix the problem in the UAE against the West Indies by playing Mohammad Nawaz as an all-rounder and a fifth bowling option. Unfortunately, that move did not pay-off as he couldn’t really adjust into the team in the way we wanted. This problem then followed us in Australia as well which probably negated Yasir’s advantage for us.
PakPassion.net : Why did the Pakistani batsmen continually repeat the same mistakes on tour in Australia?
Misbah-ul-Haq : I think, by and large, we were coping fine with our batting until that second innings in Melbourne. We played well and declared at 443 in our first innings. Australia then counterattacked and flattened our spirits. Sadly from a position of strength, the scenario completely changed to one where we were desperately trying to save the game. The pressure of the situation forced errors from our batsmen and we lost that Test match. This pressure not only affected our innings in Melbourne, it also affected the remaining part of the Test series. At times in cricket, when the momentum shifts in that manner then it becomes very difficult to stabilise things. Batsmen start to make simple mistakes. Of course, we should be able to counter this shift in power but the fact is that we, as a team, failed to do so.
PakPassion.net : Do you think the decision to play the Pakistan Super League final in Lahore is the right one, even if it means some foreign players will not play in it?
Misbah-ul-Haq : Despite the fact that foreign players may not play in Lahore in the PSL final, we as Pakistanis need to make an effort to bring such high-profile games back home. We cannot keep on playing these games outside Pakistan forever. We have to make this effort and try and make a breakthrough in this matter to bring cricket back to Pakistan as the damage being done to our cricket is immense and its adverse effects are well known. It is good to see that PCB is making an effort to make this happen as we need to start from somewhere in our efforts to bring cricket back to Pakistan.