There is a perception around Misbah-ul-Haq that he is a bit defensive. The man has hit the second-fastest hundred in Test history and led Pakistan’s team to No. 1 in the longest format and yet he was typecast as tuk-tuk. That nickname hasn’t had much occasion to pop up in the last few years but now, in his first press conference since being appointed Pakistan’s new head coach and chief selector, the issue cropped up again as people wondered about the nature of a team under his charge.
For his part, Misbah wants his players to play attractive cricket. “I have been saying this forever that there is some confusion in the way we are thinking about being defensive and aggressive,” he said. “I always believed that your strategy is based on the resources you’ve got. Ideally, you obviously try and wish to have resources that you can just dominate and knock out the opposition.
“Being a coach, I will try to build a team that plays aggressively and wins easily. But then at certain times you have to assess the strength of the opponent and make your strategy accordingly.
“For example, recently during World Cup England was considered un-matchable with players are playing the pure form of modern cricket. But at the same time New Zealand were the other way around playing with conservative approach from 80s. Despite their batsmen not clicking, they formed a strategy according to their resources and they were in the final with England playing the next level of cricket. So it shows that you have to work around your resources and plan accordingly. My priority as coach to have a team that plays an attacking cricket and dominate and that’s the way forward but at certain times you have to re-look your strategy.”
Misbah has been given a three-year contract by the PCB, his dual role giving him great power, but also great responsibility.
“Everyone asks questions about accountability. Now Misbah will be accountable for selection as well as performance,” Wasim Khan, the CEO of the Pakistan Cricket Board, said. “The concept of head coach-cum-chief selector is innovative. After being introduced to our system, it has also put more responsibility on Misbah’s shoulders as he will now be solely responsible and accountable for the team’s performances. Furthermore, as the new domestic system has also been implemented, head coaches of the provincial teams will give feedback to Misbah about the talent in our domestic cricket.”
Misbah was quick to play down the influence he might have as Pakistan’s coach, reiterating that the captain will remain in charge.
“You don’t always get what you want then it affects you mentally and tactically you don’t have the resource and it affects the performance,” he said as he tried to explain why he took on both roles.
“There has been a practice that final authority on picking the playing XI is with the captain and it will remain the same. The captain who is operating in the field needs to have full confidence in the team. Before reaching a final decision, there will be huge debate and discussion and sometime regardless of the depth in understanding there might be a difference of opinion in 15 or 16 picks or XI but at the end you either get convinced or make other convince and move on.”
Along with Misbah, Pakistan have brought on another senior figure to help lead them forward. Waqar Younis was tempted to re-join the Pakistan coaching staff, as bowling coach, even though his last stint with the team ended quite bitterly.
“He was a wonderful bowler and we won’t get any better option than him to be our bowling coach,” Misbah said. “In Pakistan, Wasim [Akram] and Waqar are the top most guys [to talk to about bowling] and everyone comes after [them], so I have no doubt about any problem. We have a very good working relationship and we both knows our limits.
“We have worked a lot together in Pakistan team and in PSL and we know each other very well. Professionalism is there, he will never interfere in my domain and I won’t interfere in his. He is also very much clear that direction comes from head coach and bowlers will be working with him. He has some plans and we know what to do when bowlers are not delivering and how to drive them to deliver.”