Australia v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Melbourne, 5th day December 30, 2016

Misbah 'thinking about' retirement; undecided about Sydney Test

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Misbah-ul-Haq has raised the possibility that he may leave international cricket, even as soon as before the third and final Test of Pakistan's series against Australia.

Pakistan's most successful Test captain was speaking in the immediate aftermath of a dramatic and demoralising final-day collapse at the MCG - which ended in a defeat by an innings and 18 runs - and a day during which concerns over his own lack of runs came to the forefront once again.

Already struggling for Test runs, Misbah lasted two balls, sweeping both, the second straight into the hands of Nic Maddison at short fine leg. That brought to a grand total of 20 runs in his last four innings, and would seem to have pushed him to the brink of calling it a day.

"I think I need to think about it," he said, when asked what the immediate future held for him. "I always believed that if I couldn't contribute to the team then it's no point staying there. This is a point where I need to think about that, even before the next game [in Sydney] and after the series. Next couple of days I will think about it and decide what to do. There is no point in hanging around and doing nothing. I haven't decided [about Sydney] but let's see."

The conversation around Misbah's retirement has been a long-running one. It began in earnest after he led them to a series victory in the UAE against England in the winter of 2015. At the time, the prospect of a series against India kept him from retiring. But when that did not materialise, he decided to stay on to lead Pakistan in a clutch of difficult away series this year.

He did well in leading them to a 2-2 draw in England, arguably the high point of his six-year tenure and, crucially, also a series in which he performed with the bat. Since then, however, Pakistan have lost a series in New Zealand and now in Australia - a run of five successive Test defeats that includes a dead-rubber loss to West Indies in the UAE.

"I was thinking about my retirement long ago, even when I was playing against England in Dubai," he said. "I was thinking then that we had possibly Tests against India, so I would play that and that's it.

"But then we had difficult tours like England, New Zealand and Australia, I thought that is not right time. I've been there for last six-seven years, developing this team. I have to face these difficult series. That is why I hung around. Even at that stage my plan was not to play for another two-three years. I have to think about that, haven't finalised it."

What might play a key role in any decision he makes is the nature of some of his dismissals through the year. Though he has built up a reputation over the course of his career both for odd and untimely dismissals, a rush of poor decision-making in the last six months or so has left him questioning his batsmanship.

Misbah-ul-Haq: 'I always believed that if I couldn't contribute to the team then it's no point staying there' © AFP

At Lord's in the summer, he slogged Moeen Ali second ball in the second innings to deep midwicket. That, ultimately, didn't prevent Pakistan from winning the Test. But in the second innings in Sharjah, against West Indies, he pulled a long hop straight to deep backward square leg off his sixth ball, when Pakistan were in some trouble.

In Christchurch in November, with Pakistan effectively 26 for 4 and Misbah relatively settled, he top edged an attempted hook off Tim Southee straight to long leg. Today came the second-ball sweep and he admitted that his thought process as a batsman is "not right".

"That is what has happened with me," he said. "Quite a few innings now in which the shot that isn't on, or the wrong shot for the wrong time… I don't know, as a cricketer, as a batsman, it is hard.

"Especially when you are not scoring regularly, when you go in [to bat], making the right decisions becomes a bit more difficult. Maybe that is happening now. What I feel I should be playing like, I am unable to play that way."

Misbah's future is not the only one that will come under scrutiny. Younis Khan, his great partner in Pakistan's triumphs, fell two balls before Misbah for 24. That left him averaging 15.75 from the two tours down under.

"It hurts you because as a senior player you have more responsibilities," Misbah said. "Whenever you don't perform, you don't come up to your own expectations and [those] of all the fans and team, that is disappointing. You don't play a game for those sort of failures, you want to stand up and perform in these pressure situations. That is disappointing and it hurts a lot."

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • stn11 on January 1, 2017, 6:30 GMT

    @Kiwirocker and other Misbah fans. Brothers firstly I don't agree that Misbah served Pak when nobody wanted to. Secondly Misbah has always been fearful in selecting his playing eleven. He has always opted for players with submissive attitude (eg Azhar, Asad etc). Because of the "good" behaviour of Azhar, he rewarded him by recommending his name for ODI captain. Which to me is one of the worst decision made in Pak history. Beyond every logic of cricket. Thirdly the current downfall of Pak cricket (esp in ODI is mainly due to the 2 Zimb tours, where Misbah should have sent youngsters to strengthen the bench strength, which he never did. And decided to take his favourites Hafeez, Azhar, Asad etc. Pak lost a test and ODI despite of these regular players.

  • ashfaq ahmad on January 1, 2017, 5:58 GMT

    it has been three days since thinking starts.

  • keymaker.kashif on January 1, 2017, 3:29 GMT

    Misbah should retire after sydney test and on 10000 runs Younis should fallow him......

  • Nagesh_Patil on January 1, 2017, 3:19 GMT

    The twist n confusion will be when misbah plays the next test and scores a hundred. He has been their premier batsman for long time.

  • qadiryousuf on January 1, 2017, 2:36 GMT

    As far as younis khan retirement goes... yes he is well past his form and he was never a big run scorer on aus and nz pitches.. but we shd consider one thing he is very very close to making 10 thousand runs..he has been a real champion and has contributed mountains to pak cricket.. by all means he should play till he get to that landmark..he will become the first pakistani to achieve dat.. let him be selfish and play for 10 thousand runs he deserves every bit of it... why do we forget his fights with the board, his struggles with many players but he stood tall for the right reason and made his way back... arguably he is the most paasionate player in the current team who loves to play, perform and contribute to pakistan cricket. Younus contribution to pak cricket is enormous and i really hope he achieve the landmark..this will be the perfect send off for him.. i hope that board,younus and people think of the labdmark as an achievement of pak cricket and not of an individual...

  • cricke0123 on January 1, 2017, 2:24 GMT

    When it comes to test cricket it goes to Misba's remarkable management skills, as much as his on field staying power, that Pakistan managed to hit the top spot a few months ago. In a country denied of any international cricketing events, managed by a disoriented cricket Board, and with a team that's often susceptible to internal rifts, Misba pulled off a rare feat in getting the team to the top slot. As far as I remember, this Aus tour was slapped on him as the Board didn't have a replacement to pass the leadership on. Having hit the last ball of the India-Pak T20 WC to a fine-leg catch about a decade ago, Misba came a long way providing a rare kind of glue for the Pak team to stick together on and produce some incredible results, the last England tour being the icing on the overall cake. This man deserves a round of applause from the cricketing community. And I'm an Indian.

  • qadiryousuf on January 1, 2017, 2:20 GMT

    Ideally it would have been great for both pakistani team and misbah to see off the last test and annlunce the next series to be his last.. it will be a perfect honor to the service mosbah has given to pak cricket and most importantly he would have helped growing the next captain (azhar ali) in his last series..havng said dat next series is far away and our media and haters wnt let him stay .. so he should announce sydney test to be his last and retire fracefully and get all the respect which is due... yes some of his decisions have been questionable and his mindset has generally been defensive but we need to look at our team also...he tend to play safe which by the unpredictable nature of our team was just fine.. to those batting haters please crtisize after evaluating and dnt be bais.. his batting technique was limited, and by the time he started his test career batting techniques are not corrected or grown at that age. Still he fought it hard and made runs which is commendable.

  • neutralcricket on January 1, 2017, 2:06 GMT

    Pakistan cricket used to be aggressive by nature prior to 2000 which instilled fear in opponents. Misbah, with his captaincy tried to unsuccessfully mold the team into defensive one. He managed to score as that was his natural style but the net result is team as whole failed. Honestly his departure is a welcome change. Pak can get their mojo back only if they start playing aggressive again. If you want to see the proof look at yr neighbor. Pak people also like this style hence they openly admire Kohli.

  • fantastic_rahul on January 1, 2017, 1:35 GMT

    He should retired 2-3 yrs back , he is there because there is no talent in pakistan cricket

  • spinkingKK on January 1, 2017, 1:19 GMT

    Pakistan found it hard to find a shrewd captain ever since Imran Khan retired. I think Pakistan should try Yasir Shah as the captain. He seems to have a good cricketing brain.