Last week we gave our immediate reaction to the announcement of Misbah-ul-Haq having been given charge of the national cricket side in the dual role of the head coach and chief selector. It’s now time to look ahead to the first few challenges of his contracted three years in charge of Pakistan cricket.
First of all, given that this piece is being written quite a few days before publication, there is a chance that a few of the major discussions might have already taken place in the week after Misbah’s appointment. Prominent among these is the question over the captaincy of the national cricket side, which will be the first major decision that Misbah will take in his new role.
While the announcement is yet to be made at the time of writing, it is expected that Sarfaraz Ahmed will retain the captaincy for the ODI and T20I formats while a new captain will be announced for Tests – the likeliest among the candidates is Azhar Ali, with Shan Masood’s name also thrown into the mix.
We’ll engage in the captaincy debate following the formal announcement, but right now it’s all about what lies ahead for the national cricket side.
First up will be the 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is against Sri Lanka, which Pakistan will host at the end of this month. Again, given what has happened over the past decade, it is the fact that those matches are scheduled to be played in Lahore and Karachi that is more important than what actually transpires on the field.
However, the first challenge for the new regime should be to be successful on the field as well. Pakistan are the top ranked T20 outfit in the world and should be too strong for Sri Lanka, with ODIs likely to be more competitive, even if the hosts are likely to prevail on that front as well.
Perhaps the greatest challenge in all of cricket, especially over the past three decades, is an away Test series in Australia
Perhaps the greatest challenge in all of cricket, especially over the past three decades is an away Test series to Australia. That particular task being given to the new regime in their third month in charge might be both a blessing and a curse.
Let’s not forget that Pakistan haven’t won a Test in Australia for over two decades. Even the peak Pakistan sides in this period, the 1999/2000 team under Wasim Akram and the 2016/17 side under Misbah which had won the Test Mace a couple of months before the tour, were both whitewashed.
Given the Test sides struggles in the post MisYou era, not much would be expected in the series. However, that is precisely what might work in their favour. Pakistan are also scheduled to play a three match T20I series, where more success would be expected than the Tests.
After the Australia tour, Pakistan will host Sri Lanka in the UAE for the Test series. That will be followed by the tour of Bangladesh, following which the fifth edition of the Pakistan Super League will be played.
It is evident that from now till the PSL, the Australia tour remains the most ominous challenge. Pakistan will be expected to do well against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – but, again, that means that failure to do so will have massive repercussions and the knives would be more ominously wielding against Misbah and his coaching staff.
The focus right now is the upcoming limited overs series against Sri Lanka, and the period before that would be used by Misbah and his team to familiarize themselves with the new roles.
There are certain things that need to be done regardless of the teams and tours ahead – i.e. to focus on fitness and instill discipline for the national side to give more consistent shape and performances. And this happens to be what Misbah had vowed in his first press conference too!