He may be the most successful Test captain in the history of Pakistan cricket but Misbah-ul-Haq’s biggest Test is round the corner. Pakistan visit England next month for a full-fledged series but unlike the past (not the recent past), England have the upper hand.
What are the factors that undermine the Greenshirts’ chances against Alistair Cook and his boys? Why will Misbah not be able to emulate Imran Khan who won the Test series in 1987, Javed Miandad who led Pakistan to a 2-1 in 1992 or Wasim Akram, who masterminded England’s downfall in 1996?
No Experience of English conditions
There was a time when Mushtaq Mohammad, Zaheer Abbas, Majid Khan, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Asif Iqbal used to play county cricket to stay fit as well as in tune with the conditions in England. Later, Saleem Malik, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed joined the list and the results were astonishing — Pakistan won the 1987 Test series as well as the succeeding two because the players knew how to perform in those conditions.
Sadly, in the current crop, not many players have had the experience of playing in England. Yes, Wahab Riaz did make his debut in 2010 but that doesn’t mean that he is a veteran when it comes to England. Thankfully, the selectors will pick the experienced Younis Khan who did well on his trips to England in 2001 and 2006; his absence from the 2010 side was one of the main reasons why the team fared so badly.
Wanted: Better Fast Bowlers
Do you know that James Anderson and Stuart Broad are among the best bowlers in the world, ranked in the top 3? The good news is that Pakistan’s Yasir Shah is ranked fourth but there is no fast bowler in the Pakistan lineup who could do a Mohammad Aamir or Mohammad Asif in England. Aamir’s visa issues might not allow him to travel to UK but if he gets the permission, he will prove to be deadlier than before. Under the guidance of Misbah ul Haq, he will most likely turn out to be the trump card for Pakistan; in his absence the bowling attack would revolve around Yasir and Zulfiqar Babar. To expect wonders from Rahat Ali, Wahab Riaz and others would be futile; Junaid Khan might have done well had he been groomed for the series, and selected of course!
New Coach, New Problems
Pakistan’s biggest problem has neither been its batting, bowling or fielding… it has been the relationship between the Coach and the Players. One of the best foreign coaches in the world Dav Whatmore’s biggest failure happened with the Greenshirts; Richard Pybus (Richard who?) was twice axed for his inability to yield results whereas infighting saw the end of Javed Miandad whenever he became the coach. Even Waqar Younis wasn’t happy with the players during the last two years and informed the board that the players aren’t fit enough for international games and don’t have the will to learn. The only person who was able to go through the team was Mohsin Khan under whose guidance Pakistan were able to beat World Number 1 England in United Arab Emirates. His modus operandi was simple: select the best players in the XI and let them play as a team. Not that difficult, is it?
Mickey Arthur hasn’t spent much time with the boys (what if some are over 35!), his last stint as an international coach (Australia) ended in a bad taste and his only association with a Pakistan side (Karachi Kings in Pakistan Super League) was disastrous. Let’s hope he has learnt from his mistakes. Otherwise I see a dark cloud hanging over his tenure!
Misbah isn’t getting any younger!
Pakistani skipper has played over 60 Tests in his illustrious career but sadly, not once has he gone out to bat in whites in England. At the age of 42, he will get his first chance to play a Test in England which might be a good fact for the statisticians but not for the ageing captain. He was dropped from the side when the Men in Green toured England in 2010 and wasn’t in national reckoning in 2006 when Inzamam-ul-Haq was the skipper. Hopefully, his excellent man management skills, his ability to adapt and his will power will help Pakistan do better this time around.