Pakistan head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq has insisted he inherited a T20 squad on the decline last year, despite the side being ranked No.1 at the time. He pointed to losses in form for several players who had helped Pakistan achieve that ranking, stressing he needed to make significant changes to keep them competitive.
“Pakistan were No.1 but if you recall the time I took over they were already on a losing streak,” Misbah said during a video press conference. “They lost in South Africa and one T20I against England. So they had already started to go down a bit and we all have an idea why was it. That was because some of our players were out of form collectively – Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali – those who were main the contributors. So there was a sudden dip, but we are trying to take them to the same place (being number one). With the recent series [in England], it’s evident that the team is in the making and going forward you will see better performances.”
Pakistan were the No.1-ranked T20I side in the world when Misbah took over as head coach last September. In the year since, the team has slipped to four in the table, while their fortunes in Test cricket haven’t improved much either; they remain rooted to No.7, as they were when he took charge. But, facing an appraisal after a year in his dual role as head coach and chief selector, Misbah was confident that his method and process has the team heading in the right direction.
Pakistan enjoyed a prolific run from the T20 World Cup in 2016, when Mickey Arthur was appointed head coach, until he was let go in 2019, winning 30 of their 37 matches with a win-loss ratio superior to any other side that had played at least 15 matches in this period. They held on to the top spot in the rankings from January 2018, but began a precipitous decline with a 3-0 home series loss against a depleted Sri Lanka side, the first T20I series played under Misbah’s tutelage. It was followed by a 2-0 series loss in Australia. The combination of the side has also been changed drastically, with Babar Azam now replacing Sarfaraz Ahmed as captain.
Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shahzad emerged from the wilderness for that first series under Misbah, while out-of-form Fakhar Zaman was dropped . In the last 12 months, Misbah handed out five T20I caps – Khushdil Shah, Muhammad Musa, Ahsan Ali, Haris Rauf, Haider Ali – while Mickey Arthur’a squad was dismantled. Hasan Ali lost his way with multiple injuries while Zaman took more than six months to regain the coach’s confidence. Mohammad Amir has never been the same while Faheem Ashraf and Asif Ali were also dropped.
After two months in England, Pakistan managed their only win on tour in the last T20I. They had their fair share of opportunities throughout the tour, but were never able to capitalise, losing the Test series 1-0 before bouncing back to square the T20I series 1-1. The series, according to Misbah, showed a glimpse of the standard of cricket he expected from them.
“The sort of cricket we are playing right now is exactly what we are looking at,” he said. “Specially in T20 cricket there were questions about not having enough firepower and not matching the level of cricket being played in the world. But scoring 190 plus twice against England in English conditions is a sign that we are heading in right direction.”
Misbah believed the only weak link in the side is the inexperienced attack for which he asked for time. “It [performance] needs to be improved but we are going towards it, similarly in Test cricket; all we just have to do is show more consistency. We have a young lot of fast bowlers and with time, they will gain experience from every game. There is a room for improvement and you always think that whatever you have done, you have the capacity to do better.
“The patience is the key with the inexperienced bowling line. You play any sports to win and that’s what we want as well. We are working on technical, tactical aspects but you need some time. They are young bowlers. There is a process for them to get mature. Our overall vision is to go towards youngsters, get long-term solutions, develop our team for a longer period of time, get the right resources and invest in them. With the changes in Pakistan, the desired results might not the one we are expecting but I am satisfied with the process and we are heading in right direction.”
The series also saw the usually cool Misbah expressing his emotions and frustration in the pavilion, with the footage, beamed to the world, leading to comparisons with his predecessor Arthur, known for his quick temper. “I think as a coach, as a player and as a human we want to win,” he said. “When you are not getting the desired results you get disappointed and that’s natural. There were things going against you even if we do well so that is where I got frustrated. But as a coach I do realise that I need to be patient.”