Reenter Misbah

K Shahid welcomes Misbah-ul-Haq’s return into the spotlight of Pakistan cricket

Reenter Misbah
Over the last month or so, this space like most other corners of sporting discussion in the country, has been preoccupied with the growing speculation that Misbah-ul-Haq was going to take over the reins of Pakistan cricket once again – this time as the first ever chief selector-coach.

Although Chief Executive Wasim Khan and Misbah have continued to downplay the fact that the move had been premeditated, perhaps to address the controversy of Misbah’s involvement in the Cricket Committee that showed Mickey Arthur the door, it has now been confirmed that the Pakistan Cricket Board wanted the former captain in the hot seat from the get-go.

Yes, a due process was followed and a selection panel was formed to interview the interested candidate. But that was perhaps a formality that the board had to follow, even though everyone knew what the PCB wanted – Wasim Khan has, indeed, confessed that Misbah was their number one target.

Misbah-ul-Haq recently look charge of the national team's training camp

Last week, we did address how the PCB mishandled the initial phases of the development. But now all is said and done – Misbah-ul-Haq has officially been unveiled as the Chief Selector and Head Coach of Pakistan cricket team.

Therefore, the knives are out and they will be pointed towards Misbah over a contracted period of three years, where he should expect scrutiny of the highest order. Indeed, the coach of the Pakistan cricket team is a post that is one of the most high-pressure spots in all of sport, but Misbah especially has his own unique set of critics who will be on the lookout for anything that they can latch on to.

Even though in this space we have backed Misbah for the position – even if we remain skeptical of the dual role – but now that he is in-charge, he will be judged purely based on results, just as he was during his successful career as a batsman and captain of the national side.

We will look into the challenges ahead next week, but right now it’s important to focus on what Misbah brings to the team, and to national cricket as a whole.

Waqar Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq as coach and captain

Misbah’s experience with domestic cricket, which will now undergo a revamp under his watch, is like no one else. He has been appointed as the selector-coach just a few months after he participated as a Peshawar Zalmi player in the Pakistan Super League, and also played for Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

Therefore, this is not a selector-coach who last played domestic cricket decades ago, and is completely detached from the grassroots.

Similarly, Misbah’s retirement from international cricket in 2017 means that he has recent experience of top level cricket – especially in Tests – unlike many others who continue to propose their ideas from decades ago as solutions heading into the 2020s.

Misbah-ul-Haq addresses a press conference with Wasim Khan

Under Misbah, Pakistan should see itself returning to the top in Test cricket, because he remains unparalleled in the country as far as strategising for five-day cricket is concerned. Similarly, levels of fitness, professionalism and discipline should considerably improve under Misbah.

Misbah is unlikely to have a top-level batting coach under him, given his own pedigree as a batsman. Therefore, the batsmen will be completely under his wing, while better fitness and discipline should result in enhanced fielding levels as well.

Similarly, the appointment of Waqar Younis as the bowling coach is a welcome development as well. There are few bowlers who have been better than him in all of world cricket, let alone Pakistan. And perhaps limiting himself to the position of bowling coach would be better for both Waqar and the team, considering that as head coach he has had clashes with senior players in the past.

Start of new innings

Given the personalities of Misbah and Waqar, one doesn’t expect any clashes between them either. They’ve worked together successfully when Misbah was the captain and Waqar coach of the national side, and the duo have collaborated successfully for Islamabad United in the PSL as well.

The rest of the coaching staff, and the captain(s) should be announced in the coming week. But right now we wholeheartedly welcome Misbah, and indeed Waqar, into this new chapter for Pakistan cricket.