Why Hafeez should replace Misbah as captain
Hafeez’s personal performance speaks volumes - Hafeez is the natural and inevitable follow-up.
Since the dreadful English summer of 2010—when Pakistan lost three key players due to the spot-fixing scandal—Misbahul Haq has been leading the Pakistan cricket team in at least two formats of the game.
Considering the tough circumstances, Misbah has done a commendable job—both as a player and as a captain.
Some of his achievements include the Asia Cup title (2012), ODI series win against India (2013), and a Test series white-wash (2012) against the then world number one Test side England in UAE.
It was Misbah’s calmness that helped improve the team’s Test ranking to number four. As a captain, he has won nine (four losses) out of 20 Test matches, and 21 (13 losses) out of 35 ODIs. His personal stats (averages: 43+ in Test matches, and 41+ in ODIs) are also reasonably poised.
However, the devil lies in the details - Misbah’s critics believe that most of his wins are based in favourable sub-continental conditions, and against the weaker oppositions, such as Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and Ireland (11 of his 21).
Additionally, his current batting forms, recent on-field decisions, his increasing age, and his role in team selections are all under a severe scanner, especially after a humiliating 3-0 drubbing against South Africa.
There is a call for the change of leadership. Sooner or later, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will need to make a decision. But do we have enough eligible candidates for the job?
Pakistan’s automatic choices
Every team has a bunch of automatic choices, around which the selectors normally nurture younger players. For instance, Indian ODI side has a pool of established players like Dhoni, Kohli, Yuvraj, Raina, and Gambhir. Rest of the selection revolves around this ‘select-group’. India can easily groom a young player (like Kohli or Raina) for future leadership assignments.
The question is how many players constitute Pakistan’s select-group?
In the current ODI setup, Nasir Jamshed, Junaid Khan, and Umar Akmal are still not too experienced. Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, and Asad Shafique are all struggling for their places.
Pondering over it deeply, I could only come up with Ajmal, Hafeez, and Gul.
Out of these three, Gul doesn’t seem like captaincy material. Ajmal is too old (35) and reserved. Perhaps, it leaves only Hafeez as the automatic choice to replace Misbah. Let’s find how he has recently fared as a player:
Hafeez, the player
Since his comeback in 2010, Hafeez’s personal performance speaks volumes of his ability, both with the ball and the bat.
Since 2011, he has won more Man of The Match awards (14) in all formats, than anyone else in the world. He is currently the number four ranked ODI bowler. He has scored more international hundreds (six and counting) than any other Pakistan player since his revival.
Mohammad Hafeez. Photo: AFP
Moreover, at 32, he is young enough to blend the young and old blood in the team. Above all, he is a keen observer of the game and is popularly known as 'the Professor' due to this ability.
His only drawback would be his inability and poor technique on seaming tracks, which was skilfully exploited by Dale Steyn in the recent South Africa series.
Let’s find out what legacy he will inherit as a possible skipper.
Firstly, despite his reasonable success—both as a captain and as a player—one simply cannot ignore the legacy Misbah will leave behind him - the ‘Tuk-Tuk’ legacy.
Misbahul Haq. Photo: AFP
Historically speaking, Pakistan has never had an assured batting line-up; at least not in recent memory, but then, the team had never fallen to such lows either.
Barring Hafeez, almost every batsman is fighting for his place in the team, and this naturally ebbs down the confidence levels, as well as the batting strike rates. The situation becomes particularly miserable if the team has to chase anything above 250 runs, even against the weaker oppositions like Bangladesh. Does anyone remember the third ODI against India recently, where Pakistan failed to chase 167 odd runs?
Secondly, in the past, Imran Khan left behind him a good team—consisting of young Wasim, Waqar and Inzamam. Likewise, Wasim was able to groom a few players, like Younis, Yousaf, Shoaib, Saqlain, and Razzaq. But the two ‘ul-Haqs’ (Inzamam and Misbah) failed to do so.
Misbah took up the captaincy in the worst times (2010), but can he proudly claim that he will leave a good team behind him?
I don’t think so. The batting is miserable, bowling options are sporadic, and the fielding is usually pathetic.
Misbahul Haq and Mohammad Hafeez. Photo: Reuters
Challenges for the new captain
Like any other new Pakistani captain, Hafeez must be ready to face the music. It isn’t easy to be the captain of the Pakistani cricket team; being scrutinised by all age groups in the country. A passionate and war-stricken nation is hungry for each speck of happiness, especially coming from its cricket team.
It expects nothing short of quintessential performances.
The captain is the center of attention; he’s a celebrated hero when the team is winning and an alleged vagabond when it is losing.
Oftentimes, even a win cannot spare him, like what happened to Misbah (in March 2012), when he was grilled by the media at the Lahore airport due to his lack of runs soon after his team brought home the Asia Cup.
Apart from the high expectations and a challenging media environment, a Pakistani captain has to cope with the poor PCB management. He has to deal with the bureaucratic mess in the PCB, poor selection policies, some blue-eyed players, and comparatively lower benefits.
The PCB will most probably have to make a decision that will eventually be to handover the leadership to someone else - the sooner, the better.
However, despite the media woes, one must not forget Misbah’s contributions, but his age is getting the best of him. It is the right time for him to call it a day.
Hafeez is the natural and inevitable follow-up. Professor has the spark that can take us to victory and I wish him all the best!
Read more by Faisal here.