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Welcome coach Misbah-ul-Haq — young and old, replacer and replacement

September 4, 2019
Welcome coach Misbah-ul-Haq — young and old, replacer and replacement

Photo: AFP

Misbah-ul-Haq was one part of the three-member committee that decided not to renew the contract of previous coach Mickey Arthur. He then applied for the vacant position and got the job ahead of more experienced and qualified candidates.

Regardless of how it turns out, the appointment does push the boundaries of what can be considered ethical and what can be not. The leap has been taken and, with time and hindsight, it will be judged as either a moment of sheer madness or a touch of visionary genius.

It has been a strange career for Misbah so far. One of the oldest captains in Pakistan history is now one of its youngest coaches. Not many people go from being the wise old sage with oodles of experience to the trailblazing youngster armed with nothing but ideas and bravado, but then again Misbah has never been like many people.

Fitting then that his role isn’t like the others either. Misbah, the man who fired his own predecessor before taking his place, is also the chief selector. Inzamam-ul-Haq was such an unmitigated disaster as a chief selector that the very position has been scrapped and the responsibility of selecting the squad now lies with the head coach.

No coach has had as much responsibility and power in Pakistan Cricket Board history as Misbah does now. Misbah has always thrived when there has been more responsibility on his broad shoulders, the secret elixir of his seemingly immortal batting career, so this is almost certain to bring out the best in him. Whether that best is good enough remains to be seen.

In a team where fingers are pointed more often than bats are raised and balls are caught, it makes sense to cut down on escape routes. Sink or swim, this is Misbah’s team. All the blame and all the praise is his for the taking; there is nowhere to hide.

Not that Misbah has ever been prone to hiding. Mr Tuk Tuk, after all, is the oldest captain to score a Test century as well as what was then the fastest century in Test history. Not to forget those ‘all eyes on me’ push-ups when people had started questioning his age and fitness.

But Misbah didn’t earn that Tuk Tuk moniker for nothing, even if it was quite harsh. The former skipper’s natural instinct has always been to defend first, to soak up pressure rather than exert it.

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race any longer though. Cricket has changed and if you don’t go for the opposition’s jugular then you can bet your bottom dollar that they will go for yours. The perennially mercurial players that usually make up the Pakistan cricket team need to be unleashed in all their glory, not tamed and domesticated.

Misbah doesn’t come with the required aggression but he brings an astute mind that realises the importance of both tactics and fitness — two things the team is almost always short of.

All of this, of course, assumes that Misbah the coach will be similar to Misbah the captain. Cricket, Pakistan and human nature are seldom as simple and black and white. There will certainly be surprises, some of them pleasant and others decidedly not so.

The PCB and Misbah have trudged into murky waters by ignoring the clear conflict of interest. If Misbah manages to deliver, few will remember that. If he fails, this brave new world will be a permanent embarrassment on all of their CVs.

Over to you Misbah, Pakistan’s young and trailblazing coach.

 
 
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