Series Down Under: Win or lose, Misbah should stay

His age really doesn’t matter at this point as he is still arguably the fittest player in the squad

Fawad Hussain November 13, 2016
While Misbah certainly is nearing his swansong, it would not be wise to assign a new captain for Tests as that could put the team’s future in jeopardy. PHOTO: AFP

For the last couple of years, Test skipper Misbahul Haq has had to repeatedly deflect one particular question that almost every cricket fan in the country wants to ask: When will Misbah retire?

The 42-year-old wanted to say goodbye to international cricket last year but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) did not allow that to happen and instead asked him to stay until the end of 2016 in order to see off tough tours of England and Australia.

That proved a blessing for both Misbah and Pakistan; he achieved various milestones — Asia’s most successful Test captain, most matches as Pakistan skipper — while Pakistan reached the Test summit for the first time since the rankings were introduced in 2003.

Misbah is now all set to marshal his troops for an unprecedented 50th time when the team takes on New Zealand in the first match of the two-Test series on November 17.

Misbah discusses 50 matches as Test captain

But while his swansong edges closer, the question of when or where he will vacate the helm has kept many baffled.

Following the defeat to West Indies in Sharjah last month, Misbah remained coy about his future when probed by a journalist and when asked the same question upon reaching New Zealand, the skipper said: “Definitely this series in New Zealand and Australia [I will be captain], then we’ll see. We will make that decision based on how these Tests go and how my body reacts.”

According to various sources, the PCB too is waiting on the results of the two tours as it mulls over a new captain for the Test side.

But irrespective of the outcome of the tours Down Under, Misbah should continue as captain as any change can prove detrimental for the future of the Green Caps.

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Pakistan have enjoyed an extremely consistent spell under Misbah as compared to their outings in limited-over cricket; that consistency has been the backbone for Pakistan’s success at home and abroad.

If that consistency gets shaken, Pakistan will find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, something Misbah’s successor, who is most likely to be an inexperienced one, would find extremely difficult, if not impossible, to cope with.

That would not only shake the foundations of the Test side which has brought so much success but might also derail any future progress.

Talking about Misbah’s successors, the first name that comes in everybody’s mind is veteran batsman Younus Khan. However, the seasoned batsman’s documented reluctance to lead the side since Pakistan’s failure in the 2009 Champions Trophy in South Africa certainly rules him out of contention.

Another day, another record for Misbah

The 38-year-old, who is bidding to become the first Pakistani to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket, is enjoying his time at the crease more and he should not be distracted from that.

The next two contenders are Pakistan ODI captain Azhar Ali and T20I captain Sarfraz Ahmed.

Azhar has not lived up to the billing as captain while his batting graph has dipped since he was assigned the responsibility. To give him more responsibility, and especially a task with such big shoes to fill as Misbah’s, could destroy his career.

Sarfraz can be a smart pick following a good string of results in T20Is and he remains undefeated from the four matches he has led the side in.

The wicketkeeper-batsman has also displayed his ability to lead a side well when he led Quetta Gladiators to the final of inaugural Pakistan Super League last February-March.

So while Sarfraz can be a good option, he still needs more time to get ready for a bigger responsibility. The wicketkeeper’s premature debut as a Test captain can affect his overall performance as he is one of the few Pakistan players who feature in all formats.

It will, therefore, be best for Pakistan if Misbah continues for another year. His age really doesn’t matter at this point as he is still arguably the fittest player in the squad and Test cricket is not new to an old man leading his side — Wilfred Rhodes did it for England when he was 52.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2016.

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tazia | 5 years ago | Reply He should retire after AUS series, but PCB should give him a permanent role as team director/mentor.
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