By handing Misbah-ul-Haq the dual role of head coach and chief selector, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has, more or less, put all their eggs in one basket. Personally, however, I don’t think it’s a bad move.
For years, we’ve seen chief selectors contributing precious little towards the cause of Pakistan cricket. Take for example the case of Inzamam-ul-Haq, the man whom Misbah has replaced as chief selector. The former Test captain did more harm than good to Pakistan cricket during his reign as chief selector.
To me, the question is not whether PCB has erred by entrusting one man with two highly important roles. The question that needs to be asked is whether they have picked the right man.
It’s a gamble.
Misbah has no formal coaching experience. He has never worked as a selector. Till early this year, his heart was still beating as a cricketer rather than a coach. Even at 44, he wanted to be actively involved as a player for his new team – Peshawar Zalmi – at this year’s edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The PCB chiefs, who were keen to rope Misbah in, admit that he lacks experience. But they argue that he can learn on job and have even overlooked a clear conflict of interest issue by allowing him to serve as coach of PSL franchise Islamabad United.
Wasim Khan, PCB’s chief executive, who is believed to have played a key role in Misbah’s appointment, announced that Misbah can start getting coaching experience with a PSL stint.
“An executive decision has been made to let Misbah coach during PSL as our team will be playing only 42 days of international cricket in the next one year. Misbah needs all the coaching experience he can get and the PSL is a good place to start,” Wasim commented last week.
If he would have said this about any other man, I would have laughed. After all, you can’t hand a rookie the command of a plane and expect him to fly it safely to its destination and that too in bad weather.
But he was talking about Misbah, the man who, against all odds, rose to become Pakistan’s most successful captain.
It’s true that Misbah doesn’t have the experience of let’s say Mickey Arthur, the man who Pakistan let go after the national team failed to make it to the World Cup semi-finals in England this summer.
Arthur was keen for another two-year term but a PCB-appointed committee that included Misbah decided against it.
I totally agree with their decision. Arthur certainly had loads of experience but wasn’t an inspirational coach. To survive in the world of Pakistan cricket, Arthur made too many compromises. He was willing to make more in order to stay on. His departure is a positive development for Pakistan cricket.
Misbah might lack the experience of Arthur but he makes up for it by being an inspirational figure. As captain, he motivated his players and lifted an under-achieving Pakistan team to the top of the world Test rankings.
Misbah will also have the luxury of having Waqar Younis as his right hand man. Not long ago, Waqar was Pakistan’s head coach when Misbah was captain. The two got along really well. Now in his capacity as Pakistan’s new bowling coach, Waqar will bring to the table his rich experience.
That said, the challenge for Misbah remains a gigantic one.
As the chief selector with an unprecedented authority to solely decide the national team, Misbah will need to select the right players for the three formats. He will need to put his personal likes and dislikes aside and pick the best players for the job.
Pakistan’s immediate target is to raise a balanced Test team that can give them a winning start in the recently-launched World Test Championship.
The Pakistanis, who are currently languishing at seventh place in the world Test rankings, will begin their campaign in the championship with a home series against Sri Lanka later this year.
Pakistan will also have to prepare a strong enough team that can help them regain the ICC T20 World Cup title in Australia next year. Then they need to rebuild the ODI team for the next edition of the World Cup to be hosted by India in 2023. Pakistan last won the World Cup in 1992. They last reached the final in 1999 and last made it to the semi-finals in 2011. They have been in a decline in the 50-over format and need to bounce back in order to become serious contenders for the world title four years from now.
Selecting the teams will only be a start for Misbah. As head coach, he will then need to train them. As captain, Misbah tried to instill professionalism among his players. He didn’t fully succeed. Now is the time to settle that unfinished business.
It was quite obvious at the World Cup that many of the Pakistani players lacked the sort of physical and mental fitness which is needed in international cricket nowadays. Players like Hasan Ali were unable to give their best primarily because of that very reason. Players like captain Sarfraz Ahmed became the centre of criticism primarily because of it.
One of the chief reasons why Misbah was able to resurrect his international career when he was in his thirties was because he really worked hard on his fitness. He made no compromises. As Pakistan’s head coach, one expects him to inspire his charges and turn them into supremely fit athletes.
PCB’s move to put complete faith in the inexperienced Misbah has received its fair share of criticism and not without reason. But it appears to be a move based more on intuition than anything else. I have a feeling that it will click.