January 16, 2012

The new, cautious face of Pakistan cricket

Exciting cricket used to be their calling card, but over the last year they seem to have moulded themselves in the image of their captain, Misbah-ul-Haq
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They call it "tuk tuk" in Pakistan. The reference is not to an auto-rickshaw, but to painfully cautious batting, mocking the dull thud of an innocuous delivery being met with a flat blade and a dour posture. For better or worse, the term has stuck to Misbah-ul Haq. It is not intended as a compliment, and it may be harsh, if not entirely undeserved, but it confirms that Misbah's air of defensiveness - which colours not just his batting but his captaincy too - isn't sitting well with the fans.

The issue has become such a talking point that Misbah was recently forced to explain himself, and the coach, Mohsin Khan, felt compelled to come out in support. Misbah confirmed that he would rather draw a match by being defensive than risk losing through aggression. In backing Misbah, Mohsin implied that the defensiveness needed to be understood as a fear of failure.

Considering the turmoil that Pakistan cricket has suffered over the last few years, a fear of failure is not merely understandable, it is welcome. Importantly, the approach has yielded dividends, with Pakistan enjoying a string of successes through 2011 and boosting their ranking in all three formats. Yet the fans want more. They want their team to win, of course, but they would much prefer if it was done in style.

This is probably the result of an appetite spoiled by a relentless diet of instant cricket, and a team historically known for its panache. "We want a thrill at every step," says Sikander Bakht, the former Pakistan seamer, who has also served stints as the team's assistant coach, and now anchors a popular television sports show. Sikander agrees that the topic of defensiveness is on people's minds, but he thinks the public reaction is misplaced. "Misbah has got it right," he argues. "He may be risk-averse by nature, but he has managed to translate that into a cohesive unit that is showing results. That is a remarkable achievement."

Pakistan were not always an exciting team. In the mid-1970s, when Mushtaq Mohammad took over the captaincy, his tactical aggression was a revolution. It unleashed a uniquely exhilarating style and approach in Pakistan cricket that continued under later captains, including Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, and their protégés, and became an international brand of its own. In some ways Misbah's placid approach is a throwback to the decades before Mushtaq, when the team held opponents to draw after draw, especially on home pitches. Yet Misbah is held to a higher standard, and appropriately so, because he has greater resources at his disposal.

There is no denying that Misbah can be cautious to a fault. Mention his innings in last year's World Cup semi-final against India, and it still draws sneers and jeers. Coming in at 103 for 3, with Pakistan needing another 158 at about a run a ball, Misbah did not score his first boundary until he had played out 42 deliveries, including 27 dot balls that drove Pakistan's enormous television audience up the wall.

Taking charge of the team in the wake of an unprecedented crisis was nothing short of having to scale a mountain. Misbah considered his options, and proceeded to shift into low gear, which is the right way to tackle a sharp gradient. But after a winning year and a bump in the rankings, the slope has eased off

His captaincy posture hasn't been all that different. In a move so defensive that it almost seems an apology, he has invited the opposition to bat on six out of seven occasions when he has won the toss in a Test match. There is also the 2010 Test against South Africa in Dubai (Misbah's first Test as captain), when Pakistan worked themselves into a strong position chasing 451, but failed to go for the kill despite having gone past 300 with only three wickets down.

Interestingly, this restrained attitude does not extend to bowling, Pakistan's traditional strength. Over the period of Misbah's captaincy, which began in November 2010, Pakistan have conceded the fewest runs per over (2.92) and taken the most wickets per Test (18.42) than any other team. Even England, conceding 3.18 runs per over, have been a touch more expensive than Pakistan, and also a touch less destructive, picking up 18.17 wickets per Test. Pakistan's bowling aggression makes sense, because it is imperative for a winning record, especially if your team is defensive about batting.

When batting, however, the rest of the team seems to have moulded itself in Misbah's image. Under his captaincy, Pakistan's Test run rate is 2.86, which ranks ninth among the ten Test nations over the same period, better only than Zimbabwe's. While run rate may not be the most critical variable in Test cricket, it cannot be overlooked. The great teams of history - Australia under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting is perhaps the best example - have shown the merits of scoring quickly in Tests. It stamps authority, creates openings, and maximises advantage.

Ramiz Raja, a former Pakistan captain and now a leading commentator, agrees that Misbah has been too defensive. "This approach was fine with Sri Lanka," he says, "but we should have been more attacking against Bangladesh." Ramiz thinks it is not a lack of talent but a mindset that is behind this approach. The implication is that it is fine to go for safety, but Misbah seeks a very wide margin, perhaps unnecessarily so. Against England, particularly, this attitude is likely to come under strain. "It is important to work yourself into a secure position," Ramiz says, "but you also have to constantly keep looking for openings. More nimbleness is needed."

While cautiousness may be part of Misbah's innate make-up, it has almost certainly been compounded by the scars of his career. Despite making his international debut in 2001, he remained out of the side for two lengthy periods, during which it seemed he would never again play for Pakistan. The captaincy came to him through a combination of accident and default, after Salman Butt was ensnared in spot-fixing at a time when other credible leadership options, such as Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik, had already been exhausted.

At 37, Misbah understands the twilight opportunity that has now come his way is prized and precious, and he seems to be being extra careful with it. You can't argue with the outcomes he has engineered, winning six Tests and losing only one, winning 13 ODIs out of 14, and winning all five of his T20 matches. He has shown command, authority, maturity, confidence and poise. He has displayed an extraordinary ability to absorb pressure. And he has shown great responsibility, lifting his batting average to 75.76 in 12 Tests as captain, compared to 33.60 in his 19 other Tests.

It is tempting to see Misbah's mandate as an uphill climb, in which his guarded approach reflects a respect for the steepness of the terrain. Taking charge of the team in the wake of an unprecedented crisis was nothing short of having to scale a mountain. Misbah considered his options, and proceeded to shift into low gear, which is the right way to tackle a sharp gradient. But after a winning year and a bump in the rankings, the slope has eased off, and with top-ranked England as the next obstacle, the lay of the land is altogether different. For Misbah and his team, the time to move into high gear has arrived.

Saad Shafqat is a writer based in Karachi

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on January 19, 2012, 18:10 GMT

    BREAKING NEWS - MISBAH JUST DEFEATED THE NUMBER #1 test side , all who were claiming that misbah is tuk tuk , loser , deffensive , and will fall short of victory against stronger teams can now go off cry about it , Coz Misbah is a Champion

  • mueenhameed on January 19, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    I strongly believe Misbah's approach is too defensive. His such batting style in World Cup semi final against India ruined Pak fan,s hope to win WC. It was too slow and bad timing to take batting power play during that all important match. I still remember when Umar Akmal was playing with Misbah...Umar took single on first ball and Misbah played 5 dot balls....what the hell was that approach....I dont care whether Misbah makes 100 centuries & 75 half centuries in test cricket ...but cruel fact remains he did not come up to expectation of the nation . He is not favourite of most cricket fans I believe....we need aggressive captain with aggressive batting style. Secondly Misbah & Mohsin are ruining future of the most talented batsman of this era Umar Akmal. I m very keen to see Whatmore as coach ASAP becoz he will do justice with highly talented batsman like Umar Akmal. In fact Whatmore should have taken charge of Pak team during current series . Mueen ud din Hameed from Toronto

  • on January 17, 2012, 8:27 GMT

    a good article indeed. i guess despite him being defensive and all i guess no body will disagree that he is proving to be one the best captains for pakistan since wasim akram. As long he plans to win no matter how defensive , he has got my vote to remain captain.

  • on January 17, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    Nicely Argued. While the fans would want an agressive captain but given the past 2-3 years of record its better to be a bit defensive and not lose than to take risks and face defeat. Its about building self-confidence and try to get the team as one unit which I believe Misbah has achieved. I think in dry and humid conditions it wont be easy for England to beat them. If Pak manages to win 1-0 here , it will be a great achievement.

  • on January 17, 2012, 3:52 GMT

    Excellent artical buddy ! Very well balanced . Right on ....Mohsin and Misbah both are securing their places in the squad and that is why they are playing safe, He has an oppertunity recently against weaker Teams(excluding SL) but he failed to deliver. Which going to cost him big time now against #1 rank Team. Keep in mind if he has been winning and keeping a good captaincy record it is against WEAKER teams. His real test will start in next couple of hours. Either we all will shut up and he can make us open can of warms again. At the end we want to see the TEAM succeed NOT that folks play for them self rather would like to see them play for the country and fans. Khan

  • Shah-Ji on January 17, 2012, 2:57 GMT

    Saad ,You gave credit to ,where it belongs ,Mushtaq Muhammad.

    The best Pakistan team was the first team Kardar team of Hanif and Fazal.

    The all team best was Mushtaq team of Majid,Sadiq,Zaheer,ASif,Imran,sarfraz, and Miandad.

    Another widely wrong impression should be corrected, The Invention of "Reverse Swing" belongs to Sarfraz Nawaz and not Imran or Waseem.

  • wrenx on January 17, 2012, 0:21 GMT

    There's no doubt in my mind that Pakistan possess the prodigious talent to, on their day, demolish this England side. What they do not have, however, is the mentality and the workmanlike nature of the well-oiled machine that England has. Nobody expects England to play anything close to entertaining cricket, that's not, and never has been their style. They do know how to win games though, and out in the desert, determination and discipline is more than a match for mercurial and volatile talent. Whoever described this as a 'clash of qualities' was right, despite Misbah at the helm, Pakistan is still Pakistan, and against the world's best, they are the side that will either collapse like a house of cards in a sandstorm, or shred through them and make them look like amateurs. This will be England's series to be passive - they just need to play their normal, steady game, and hope thy don't catch Pakistan on one of their rare good days.

  • on January 16, 2012, 23:32 GMT

    That tuk tuk can save a Match from defeat to draw, but Misbah should understand he cannot draw the one day matches, there are do or die so please do not implement your formula on every format and still I would recommend to get the thirst of victory instead of going for the draw.

  • DrAtharAbbas on January 16, 2012, 23:21 GMT

    For everyone complaining about scoring rate, like a child in the classroom should be given the task of writing in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS, one thousand times in their notebooks: TEST MATCHES ARE WON BY THE TEAM WHO HAS SCORED MORE RUNS, NOT BY THE TEAM WHO SCORED THEM QUICKER, TEST MATCHES ARE WON BY THE TEAM WHO HAS SCORED MORE RUNS, NOT BY THE TEAM WHO SCORED THEM QUICKER, TEST MATCHES ARE WON BY THE TEAM WHO HAS SCORED MORE RUNS, NOT BY THE TEAM WHO SCORED THEM QUICKER . . . . . . . . . . . . after writing it 1000 times, may be these people complaining will understand what test cricket really is.

  • on January 16, 2012, 23:10 GMT

    People calling for Misbah's head? Really? (am talking about some comments here - not the article). He is the only voice of sanity.

  • on January 19, 2012, 18:10 GMT

    BREAKING NEWS - MISBAH JUST DEFEATED THE NUMBER #1 test side , all who were claiming that misbah is tuk tuk , loser , deffensive , and will fall short of victory against stronger teams can now go off cry about it , Coz Misbah is a Champion

  • mueenhameed on January 19, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    I strongly believe Misbah's approach is too defensive. His such batting style in World Cup semi final against India ruined Pak fan,s hope to win WC. It was too slow and bad timing to take batting power play during that all important match. I still remember when Umar Akmal was playing with Misbah...Umar took single on first ball and Misbah played 5 dot balls....what the hell was that approach....I dont care whether Misbah makes 100 centuries & 75 half centuries in test cricket ...but cruel fact remains he did not come up to expectation of the nation . He is not favourite of most cricket fans I believe....we need aggressive captain with aggressive batting style. Secondly Misbah & Mohsin are ruining future of the most talented batsman of this era Umar Akmal. I m very keen to see Whatmore as coach ASAP becoz he will do justice with highly talented batsman like Umar Akmal. In fact Whatmore should have taken charge of Pak team during current series . Mueen ud din Hameed from Toronto

  • on January 17, 2012, 8:27 GMT

    a good article indeed. i guess despite him being defensive and all i guess no body will disagree that he is proving to be one the best captains for pakistan since wasim akram. As long he plans to win no matter how defensive , he has got my vote to remain captain.

  • on January 17, 2012, 4:15 GMT

    Nicely Argued. While the fans would want an agressive captain but given the past 2-3 years of record its better to be a bit defensive and not lose than to take risks and face defeat. Its about building self-confidence and try to get the team as one unit which I believe Misbah has achieved. I think in dry and humid conditions it wont be easy for England to beat them. If Pak manages to win 1-0 here , it will be a great achievement.

  • on January 17, 2012, 3:52 GMT

    Excellent artical buddy ! Very well balanced . Right on ....Mohsin and Misbah both are securing their places in the squad and that is why they are playing safe, He has an oppertunity recently against weaker Teams(excluding SL) but he failed to deliver. Which going to cost him big time now against #1 rank Team. Keep in mind if he has been winning and keeping a good captaincy record it is against WEAKER teams. His real test will start in next couple of hours. Either we all will shut up and he can make us open can of warms again. At the end we want to see the TEAM succeed NOT that folks play for them self rather would like to see them play for the country and fans. Khan

  • Shah-Ji on January 17, 2012, 2:57 GMT

    Saad ,You gave credit to ,where it belongs ,Mushtaq Muhammad.

    The best Pakistan team was the first team Kardar team of Hanif and Fazal.

    The all team best was Mushtaq team of Majid,Sadiq,Zaheer,ASif,Imran,sarfraz, and Miandad.

    Another widely wrong impression should be corrected, The Invention of "Reverse Swing" belongs to Sarfraz Nawaz and not Imran or Waseem.

  • wrenx on January 17, 2012, 0:21 GMT

    There's no doubt in my mind that Pakistan possess the prodigious talent to, on their day, demolish this England side. What they do not have, however, is the mentality and the workmanlike nature of the well-oiled machine that England has. Nobody expects England to play anything close to entertaining cricket, that's not, and never has been their style. They do know how to win games though, and out in the desert, determination and discipline is more than a match for mercurial and volatile talent. Whoever described this as a 'clash of qualities' was right, despite Misbah at the helm, Pakistan is still Pakistan, and against the world's best, they are the side that will either collapse like a house of cards in a sandstorm, or shred through them and make them look like amateurs. This will be England's series to be passive - they just need to play their normal, steady game, and hope thy don't catch Pakistan on one of their rare good days.

  • on January 16, 2012, 23:32 GMT

    That tuk tuk can save a Match from defeat to draw, but Misbah should understand he cannot draw the one day matches, there are do or die so please do not implement your formula on every format and still I would recommend to get the thirst of victory instead of going for the draw.

  • DrAtharAbbas on January 16, 2012, 23:21 GMT

    For everyone complaining about scoring rate, like a child in the classroom should be given the task of writing in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS, one thousand times in their notebooks: TEST MATCHES ARE WON BY THE TEAM WHO HAS SCORED MORE RUNS, NOT BY THE TEAM WHO SCORED THEM QUICKER, TEST MATCHES ARE WON BY THE TEAM WHO HAS SCORED MORE RUNS, NOT BY THE TEAM WHO SCORED THEM QUICKER, TEST MATCHES ARE WON BY THE TEAM WHO HAS SCORED MORE RUNS, NOT BY THE TEAM WHO SCORED THEM QUICKER . . . . . . . . . . . . after writing it 1000 times, may be these people complaining will understand what test cricket really is.

  • on January 16, 2012, 23:10 GMT

    People calling for Misbah's head? Really? (am talking about some comments here - not the article). He is the only voice of sanity.

  • noplay on January 16, 2012, 22:26 GMT

    In the wicket taking comparisons between England and Pakistan since Misbah became captain, Pakistan comes out slightly better. But who did England play again? And what were the margins of defeats in those series? Think about it guys

  • SamAsh07 on January 16, 2012, 22:22 GMT

    Don't forget the Misbah of 2007's T20 World Cup, your constant bashing might leave him with no choice but to switch to Gear 7 in this Test series.

  • on January 16, 2012, 21:43 GMT

    Thanks to Misbah and Pak team, they started the trend of winning......We are happy from Pak Slow but mature batting....It is not easy to play slow, its patience which is not present in every batsman.....I like pak team,, they can play 5 - day cricket,,,,it is complete NEW team from the previous one that played against england in 2010.....I hope this time, pak will win...Good luck PAK Team.....PAKISTAN ZINDABAD.

  • on January 16, 2012, 20:16 GMT

    Two points.

    1. England have followed a similar path and its proven succesfull. A formula based on Cook and Troot grinding out runs at 3 an over or less until the bowlers tire so that KP, Bell and Prior can take their toll of tired and brow beaten bowlers has worked wonders. Neither of these sides can be said to have the batting fireworks.

    2. Why is putting the opposition in suddenly seen as negative. I tend to see batting first as the safety first option. If your strength is bowling then why not bowl? You can win a match in two sessions with the ball not the bat so surely its more adventurous?

  • on January 16, 2012, 19:20 GMT

    Good article by a veteran writer. Bravo.

  • on January 16, 2012, 18:43 GMT

    what misbah has done is win and improve pakistan rankings in all the formats The thing i dont understand is all these people who complain about the way he plays do you want him to play aggressively and lose as pakistan was doing before he became captain or you want pakistan to win The players pakistan have best option is to play cautious they dont have the great batsmen who can play aggressively and stay at the pitch for longer periods of time.He has done a great job the bottom line is to win and he has done that good luck against england as long as you guys play hard no matter the result you guys have our support

  • r1m2 on January 16, 2012, 17:19 GMT

    This is a horrible article to say the least. The match situations described by Saad where according to him "no denying that Misbah can be cautious to a fault" required Misbah to bat as he did. The WC semi-final, Pakistan lost the top order with no hope of winning. If there was ANY chance whatsoever for Pakistan to win the match, it was Misbah's innings. If he could bat on until the end, Pakistan would've won or come too close to it (we've seen that many times). Another stupid example is the test match at Dubai. There was NO WAY in hell was Pakistan ever going to win the match. Only SA was ever going to win the match. It was a placid pitch where SA lost 2 wickets to Pakistan in 95 overs (a significantly better batting unit against a significantly worse bowling line up). Pakistan had a chance of winning the match chasing 451 against SAfrica? The 300 with 3 wickets down was only possible because of Misbah's batting. Article shows you arent knowledgeable enough about test cricket to write.

  • Usmankhwaja on January 16, 2012, 16:51 GMT

    The writer of the article seems to either be ignorant of that facts or simply he doesn't want to see Pakistan cricket team doing well. the facts speak for it self Mr.Saad, and the facts are under Misbah's captaincy, Pakistan cricket team is on the wining ways.Do you want Afridi to be the captain? who can chew the ball again and make Pakistan cricket, a laughing stock?or who else is there?so lets be fair and honest and not biased while analysing

  • KashifMuneer on January 16, 2012, 16:18 GMT

    I slightly disagree with Saad Shafqat when he says fans are not happy with Misbah. Just read the comments to this article and you will realise how happy the fans are with Misbah and what great work he has done with the team. I agree that the approach against England will need to be slightly different but I am sure that the team management are aware of that. Keep up the good work!

  • on January 16, 2012, 15:05 GMT

    I think defensive approach will lead the team to disaster in crucial stages of the game. If Pakistan wanted a win against good opposition like England then Pakistan should adopt attacking cricket rather than 'tuk tuk' against bowler like Swan. If they adopt defensive strategy against Swan then Swan will be probably the leading wicket taker in the series

  • Nutcutlet on January 16, 2012, 14:35 GMT

    Interesting article. It's easy to see where Misbah's coming from - a side that is recovering confidence has first to learn not to lose. Once you are seen as a side that's difficult to beat, that throws the emphasis on the stronger team to make the running. Strauss used to be considered a conservative captain (that's about one notch up from cautious), but he has learned to be more adventurous and proactive. If he knows (as he must) that Misbah and his team are more interested in occupying the crease rather than pressurising the bowlers, then he will counter this defensive mind set by setting attacking fields and asking his batsmen to score as briskly as possible to make time to bowl the Pakistanis out. Watch out for England putting pressure on the suspect Pakistani fielding with good strike rotation. England is by far the fitter side remember; this could well be the crucial diff. It's up to England to make the running and a convincing series win will be the objective from the outset.

  • mustufa on January 16, 2012, 14:24 GMT

    @Meety, I completly agree, a perfect stategy for a flawed batting line up, get your act together, stick it out, go slow if you have to, but score as many as you can. I see no problem with this, Misbah is building a solid foundation and a solid squad for the captains to come, something no captain has done in history for Pakistan. The day when a Hafeez or whoever will take over, they will take this culture and add their color to it. Its nothing short of remarkable that Pak are still a competitive team after all that has happened, be thankful and just watch cricket fans.

  • Dhump on January 16, 2012, 13:59 GMT

    This seems more like an attempt to create a fuss among Pakistani Cricketers, making them think they are playing boring cricket; and when they will try to play fast, they will lose wickets, eventually the match. I don't care how they play, as long as they win (or draw in some cases), as long as they do not throw the wickets away and play balls on their merit. Its almost like the esteemed writer is on the ECB payroll, playing mind games with his fellow countrymen and the team that represents the nation.

  • on January 16, 2012, 13:43 GMT

    So, we have the "pehla", the normal off spinner, then we have the "doosra" that goes away from the right handed batsman. And we have the arm ball…so does "teesra" is about a spinning yorker or probably "spinner bouncer" or probably a spinner bowling a 100kmph ball, that swings?

  • on January 16, 2012, 13:21 GMT

    @Rehan Shams: Foreign coaches seem to kill our team's natural spirit. It has made zombies out of an excellent srilankan team and it has the same effect on us. I think Waqar was ideal and even Mohsin seems ok. Imran Khan said that cricket is about captains not coaches, and HE ought to know best. @Faisal Hussain: Who wants Fawad in limited overs after he cried on his bat during the ODI series against SA? That was lily-livered enough to keep him out. Asad is a very good player but his strike rate can be lower than Younis and Misbah. Umar Akmal is a better option if he grows up. Hammad Azam should get a chance though.

  • yorkshirematt on January 16, 2012, 13:16 GMT

    A very interesting article, and interesting to get a perspective of the series from the opposition that doesn't involve the words "new delivery", "clean series" etc etc. The cautious approach does make sense but I can quite imagine how it might not be popular with the Pakistani public, given the exciting, unpredictable cricket they are used to. I'm sure this will change if they manage to beat england 1-0 in a series of dour attritional cricket.

  • frazchaudhry on January 16, 2012, 13:16 GMT

    this defensive approach may have worked against lesser teams but im afraid up against England and other powerhouses Misbah risks getting on the backfoot too soon, and if you give good teams an opportunity they will take it. The only chance pakistan have of winning is if they play to win and be aggressive. Pakistan had a good run last year but the opposition wasn't as good as this one, Misbah will need to take a leaf out of Imran Khan's book and will have to be a little bit more attacking in his approach.

  • on January 16, 2012, 13:15 GMT

    it make sense ...definitely as he said wining by being cautious is batter than losing by being aggressive thats his style let him lead his team in easiest possible way that suits him as long as the team is wining no should have any problem........

  • frazchaudhry on January 16, 2012, 13:14 GMT

    this defensive approach may have worked against lesser teams but im afraid up against England and other powerhouses Misbah risks getting on the backfoot too soon, and if you give good teams an opportunity they will take it. The only chance pakistan have of winning is if they play to win and be aggressive. Pakistan had a good run last year but the opposition wasn't as good as this one, Misbah will need to take a leaf out of Imran Khan's book and will have to be a little bit more attacking in his approach.

  • cricket_pak419 on January 16, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    @Faisal Hussien I totally agree with you this article was really good and was giving me flashback of reminding me the path of Misbah. Your statement about Misbah Younis not playing for odi clearly tells me that you haven't seen there stats. They both have 2 half centuries in t20. The odi part Misbah and younis have an average closeto fifty which is like saying drop Javed Miandad because thats how good Misbah is. The other thing is making Hafeez captain is what I agree with you because as well as Misbah Hafeez has been performing. I wish Mohammad Yousaf comes back he is such a good player. Another thing I have to say is why are hey bringing Wahab Riaz there'sno talent in him. Just because he got a five wicket haul against India it doesnt mean that he is the best bowler. My team for the first teast would be 1hafeez 2taufeec 3Azhar 4younis 5misbah 6Asad 7Adnan 8Gul 9Junaid 10rehman 11ajmal Hope that Pakistan can deafeat and prove to the cricheting world that WE ARENUMBER ONE! I cant wait

  • on January 16, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    @Desihungama: Good point. I don't see why it's a defensive ploy when it has mostly paid off. Aggression is about wresting early advantage, and for a team that's notorious for batting and has excellent bowling, that advantage is gained by bowling first. On a flat track, if we bowl out the opposition under 300, we can be very happy to know we have 10 more wickets to take and they have to take 20 on a bowlers' graveyard.

  • on January 16, 2012, 12:49 GMT

    yes i agreed but some extent he is right because pakistan cricket facing problems good luck for misbah and pakistan cricket team against england

  • Khan1983 on January 16, 2012, 11:10 GMT

    @landl47, Mate, at the moment the only major challenge I would consider for Pakistan in international cricket is probably only SA. English team,though a good team, isn't brilliant.the only thing that might play in their hands will be the slow pitches (yes! Slow pitches!) and Pakistan's sloppiness in field - if these help, they may have a respectable draw,otherwise i wud advise to be prepared for a bit of wound licking and face hiding ;)

  • Khan1983 on January 16, 2012, 11:09 GMT

    @landl47, Mate, at the moment the only major challenge I would consider for Pakistan in international cricket is probably only SA. English team,though a good team, isn't brilliant.the only thing that might play in their hands will be the slow pitches (yes! Slow pitches!) and Pakistan's sloppiness in field - if these help, they may have a respectable draw,otherwise i wud advise to be prepared for a bit of wound licking and face hiding ;)

  • No1_Jon on January 16, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    Good article Saad - I agree, now's the time to move into 3rd gear and beyond.

    The team have strengthened their mentality over the last 18 months, enough to have laid the foundations for test cricket, but the next step is now required: the need to be aggressive, assert pressure and, dare I say, instill fear into the mindset of opposition teams.

    If Misbah and the coaches fail to do this then the team will not progress further, rather THEY themselves will be the ones in a constant state of fear!

    Looking forward to watching some good cricket between two in-form teams over the next month. I hope it doesnt turn out like the one-sided affairs we have witnessed in the southern hemosphere recently!

  • AbdullahShaikh on January 16, 2012, 10:56 GMT

    @Rehan Shams ... agreed with you. Infact in recent times i have started getting an impression that Rameez always sides with the establishment. In recent times if you see he always keekps praising U.Akmals talent. Though i feel Umar Akmal is a spoilt brat. Infact after the revelations he along with Farhat Riaz etc should not have been considered to be part of any team leave alone Test team. Shafeeq was doing very well in the test Team. Now U.Akmal will pressurise him. The whole world also knows what U.Akmal had done to Zulqarnain Hyder in the UAE series against SA. U.Akmal is a very selfish player like his brothr Kamran, he keeps running his partners out. I think given the state of affairs in Pak cricket politics. Misbah is doing an excellent job. His worth will be fully reallised only when he is gone.

  • Stark62 on January 16, 2012, 10:53 GMT

    I don't think Misbah and Younis are needed in the shorter formats and especially not Misbah's negative captaincy.

    Pak only played SL (getting destroyed by SA), Bang, Ire and Zimb in the shorter formats under Misbah. Even though Eng aren't a good ODI side but they still might beat Pak in the ODI's because of Misbah's tactics.

    Afridi the captain for ODI's and T20's whilst, Misbah can remain in the Tests until he retires and Younis should take over.

  • AbdullahShaikh on January 16, 2012, 10:47 GMT

    Experience in UAE conditions. is similer to subcontinent conditions, hence the pak team will easily adapt to these conditions and pitch. However, the english team will find it difficult to adjust as they found out in India during the world cup and the ODI series in India. However, Test cricket is different and England are ranked no.1 in the Test match category. However, this ranking has come off the home series played by england aganst India, SL, Pak and series in Australia (when the aussies were not dong well). A clear parellel can be drawn to Indias no.1 Ranking after playing in the subcontinent for a long time. When India, Pak and SL went to England they got thrashed, not becouse england was superior but because these teams could not handle the conditions there. Also the younsters were untested till then. Now in the UAE it will be a different story. I firmly believe that here Pak are the favorites.

  • Dannymania on January 16, 2012, 9:58 GMT

    Very good article.I agree with every single thing in it.A good article is always the one in which the writer doesn't take sides,a criterion which this article fulfills to the limit.Great work Mr.Shafqat.Now,As for me,I think Misbah doesn't have to change much.He has been getting good results as a captain.He has been scoring runs too which means that he has been leading from the front.The only worry here is,that many players are over 30 in this team,and Misbah doesn't like to change the test team that much.This might leave pakistan at the same place where they started when this team combo was created.

  • on January 16, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    Fans need to understand that what Misbah did in TEST MATCHES (only) was the need of the hour when he took over, because the team was in rebuilding phase and team chemistry wasn't that great. However, now that team is gelling well, and new players are performing too, he now needs to start being more aggressive and come out of his defensive shell! Already we have drawn 2 test matches (SA in 2010, SL in 2011) that we should have won! However, ODI n T20i are a different story altogether; Misbah and Younis have no place in that team for those 2 formats!! I fail to understand why are they being persisted with in limited overs formats, when we have younger and more aggressive options available!! I say make Hafeez the ODI n T20i captain, and replace younis n misbah with Fawad/Shafiq in ODIs, and Nasir Jamshed/Hammad Azam in T20i!! Wht do u think guys??

  • Hussain_KSA on January 16, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    Teesra, Teesra and Teesra will be a great weapon of Pakistan against England. We all aware about the fact that is England is very week against quality spin bowling; as contrast with Sri-Lanka; Pakistan already won against Lanka in the same conditions with same bowling attack without using their special weapon(Teesra); Then against England they can definitely make a significant impact. The only worries are for Pakistan batting; If Pakistanis players can able to put runs on the board then.... There is no man, no war, no magic can able to stop Pakistan to take the series with dignity and honor!!!!

  • khurramsch on January 16, 2012, 9:36 GMT

    well i think yes its tru that against SA pak could go for win. drawn almost a won match against SL ( droped catches a reason but pak slow run rate was also a cause). & almost drawn agiast bangla when lights were fadding. But this time agianst england i would say that will work as no one want to loose to many & trying to be safe.

  • on January 16, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    I am fully satisfied with Misbah's Approach and want it to continue for the England Series as there is no need to change the strategy yet. This defensiveness is very much likely to work just fine against English attack on the placid U.A.E tracks. I don't want any of my batsmen getting out playing rash shots.Let the opponents toil for the wickets. In the bowling department, we should depend more on the spin duo (or trio, as Hafeez is a very reliable and potent third option) and plan our strategies accordingly. The paceman are talented but apart from Umar Gul they are inexperienced and the pitches or conditions are not very suitable for them either.

  • Ahmad1984 on January 16, 2012, 9:13 GMT

    You are dead right mate. I don't think, pakistan can win a test from England with that kind of approach. I am sure Misbah and Mohsin are thinking of somehow to draw the series instead winning it. If they dray, they will say, its a win for pakistan. Typical Misbah mindset. Hopefully he will retire this year.

  • on January 16, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    Can people please leave Misbah alone????? He has done a great job. My only fear is that with a foreign coach due, the team's problems will resurface. Mohsin Khan has done a tremendous job and the two gel well together and so does the team with these two (Misbah & Mohsin). Why do PCB want to rock that boat again is beyond my comprehension. They still don't realise that communication has always been a problem. Hell, if they cannot communicate properly with each other in their own language, what chance do they have comprehending a foreigner's speech and demands. PCB WAKE UP AND STOP PLAYING POLITICS!!!!

  • Khan1983 on January 16, 2012, 8:37 GMT

    A very well written piece indeed saad.True! Misbah's approach lack the usual Pakistani Brand of cricket but any game of cricket involving Pakistan is a bag of surprises, for they have the unenviable tendency to clinch victory from the jaws of defeat and vice versa. What Misbah has done is to promote stability and consistency,the first step to confidence, and now that the confidence is coming back, you can see shackles breaking slowly but surely - Hafeez and over period of time Asad Shafiq seems to now shifting the gear and we all know Umar Akmal's aggressiveness. A great team in the making , I would say. carry on Misbah!

  • AbdullahShaikh on January 16, 2012, 8:24 GMT

    Well agreed about the comments ol tuk-tuk. Especailly Ramiz's commnents. But let us bear in mind a few facts. All over the world in recent times teams have been collapsing, more so in foreign conditions case in point India and SL. But nowhere have the siniors been sacked so brutally. This happens only in Pak cricket. Younis, Misbah and M.Yusuf had all been sacked only recently. Look at what has happened to M.Yousuf. Every one in the world would agree that perhaps he is one of the greatest players in the world. still a record holder of max centuries in one calender year. A feat which even the great SRT could not conquer inspite of 22 years of cricket. look what has happened to him. He had atleast a couple of years of test cricket left in him. Contrast that with Misbah, he is not as great a player and is older than M.YOusuf. The Marging of error is so fine in Pak that at this age he cannot take any chances. But most off all his tactics have paid off very well.

  • 2929paul on January 16, 2012, 8:07 GMT

    In many ways it makes sense for a team that's rebuilding to be cautious in its approach and not risk losing in an effort to win a match. It's a similar philosophy to that taken by Nasser Hussain when he took over the England captaincy in 1999 and it earned him some scrappy series wins, away in Pakistan for example. It backfired too, though. Like when he inserted Australia in the first Test in Brisbane in 02/03 and got roundly pummelled.

  • cricket4shafiq on January 16, 2012, 7:21 GMT

    Thanks for another excellent article! I too agree with this Tuk-Tuk approach in tests, when we have a bowling to make up. This safety first approach can ensures our 2-1 victory in the series against England, rather loosing or drawing series by 1-1 in attacking mode. I still miss Hammad Azam at No 6 as fast bowling all rounder. I hope Umer Akmal can enlighten the Middle East with his positive sides.

  • on January 16, 2012, 6:40 GMT

    I agree with Saad that this the time to move into high gear. The goal can be achieved by playing young Akmal in the batting line up, but it seems unlikely, given the regular display of all the six batsmen in recent times. Hafeez is the only man who can be decisive in this regard.

  • rzi-BDML on January 16, 2012, 6:39 GMT

    I agree with Saad that this the time to move into high gear. The goal can be achieved by playing young Akmal in the batting line up, but it seems unlikely, given the regular display of all the six batsmen in recent times. Hafeez is the only man who can be decisive in this regard.

  • on January 16, 2012, 6:26 GMT

    I believe sports and games must be played with a 'winning attitude' rather than being defensive,its against the sportsman spirit. Cricket followers want to see some exciting cricket where every palyer gives his 100% and show some astounding skills; otherwise you will ruin the test cricket.. hell no one has enough time to follow a 5-day test match that is played in a spirit of being drawn ...

  • ozone8237 on January 16, 2012, 6:14 GMT

    I have heard a lot about Misbah Being extra cautious, defensive and having taken strange decisions after winning the Toss. Well!! first of all Hats off to a Great Captain in the making. Misbah took over the leading role when Pakistan team and the board was under heavy pressure, criticiism and scrutiny. Pakistan team had the lowest moral and shaken confidence due to the Spot fixing charges. It was Misbah's cool, confident and patient approach that took Pakistan to stability. united the shattered team who had lost its destination and started to build the confidence by organization, planning and with the help of experienced player/bowler and ex captain Waqar and other team management and the results are in front of everyone. The best cricketing year for Pakistan in a decade. I understand his defensive approach is a little bit extra but with the time when he gets concrete confidence in his team's skills and abilities in their particular departments he will go for the offensive..

  • Dr.Hasan on January 16, 2012, 5:55 GMT

    Excellent article. Truly much more intent and aggressiveness will need to be shown by the Pak team if they are to subdue Eng. May Allah make us victorious. Ameen

  • on January 16, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    will misbah again starts tuk tuk in cricket............hahahahah

  • donda on January 16, 2012, 5:09 GMT

    I am a firm believer that test match is test of temperament and maturity. You go in to play for draw and if there is chance you go for win then. Misbah approach is perfect for pakistani cricket because of horrible year of 2010. Pakistan team has a perfect captain who thinks about safety first and then think about win. I like his style , vision and his victory ratio is better than a lot of other captains.

    We should all know that we are going to play against #1 team in the world , like a real heavy weight boxers England will be aggressive and try to punish pakistan and best approach is to play long and make them suffer and look for one weak moment and grab it.

    I hope instead of losing this series pakistan draw this series and stay happy. At home we cannot afford to lose any series.

  • Desihungama on January 16, 2012, 5:04 GMT

    He has greater resources at his disposal? You mean like home advantage? To your 2nd point - He has invited the opposition to bat on six out of seven occasions when he has won the toss - Maybe he is fool enough to think bowling is their strength? Knowing bowling is my strength i'd done it 7 out of 7 times.

  • landl47 on January 16, 2012, 4:13 GMT

    If Pakistan continue to play West Indies, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, (their opponents in 2011 and the opposition for all but 2 tests of Misbah's reign as captain) I expect them to continue to have success.

  • Nigah on January 16, 2012, 4:13 GMT

    Slow and steady win the race, and it is true from generations.

  • Meety on January 16, 2012, 3:53 GMT

    IMO - defensive batting by Misbah's team is not a bad thing. For starters, the biggest problem Pakistan has had in the recent past is the batsmen have not shown much ticker or fight. Umar Akmal will possibly become a better batsmen for it. The other thing is - Pakistan (unlike India), always seem capable of taking 20 wickets, so they need their batsmen to give them good scores to play with. Whilst other sides would of toyed with Bangladesh or ridiculed them (Sehwag), Misbah trained his team to play a style of cricket that COULD beat England in the soon to be played Test series. England are the form side in Tests, IMO Pakistan are not far behind (form wise). After all the turmoil Pakistan has had in recent years, you'd think a steady as she goes type of captain AND team would be a blessing??????

  • bill-iqbal on January 16, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    I am astounded and astonished when the fans have issue with Misbah's captaincy. Feels like the fans are not happy no matter what the result of the match. When we were loosing individuals had issues with it, when we were drawing fans wanted to team to go for the kill, and now at last we are winning, well....we are bring too defensive!!!!! We are a bunch of darn unhappy people. I say...Misbah...GO FOR IT. DO WHAT U THINK IS RIGHT. Just keep winning my man...keep winning. We are behind you.

  • rivernile on January 16, 2012, 3:31 GMT

    I think that Misbah is captain cool! He has shown great poise. Folks keep blaming him for the show against India in the world cup, but here is my take on the matter- if Misbah was scoring slowly, and he was, at least he was holding the inning together. What were the folks on the other side of the crease doing? How come they didn't pick up the tempo? Could you imagine if Misbah didn't bat in the manner that he does- where would Pakistan's batting be?

  • LillianThomson on January 16, 2012, 3:24 GMT

    Give me the reliability of a Misbah any day ahead of the occasional explosions of brilliance of an Umar Akmal or Virender Sehwag. Misbah is making the best of limited resources in an era when he must make do without Mohammad Amir for the full term of his captaincy, which deprives him not just of the world's best left-arm pace bowler but also of his best lower-order batsman. Misbah still has problems to cover though. His openers Taufeeq and Hafeez are moderate, there is no decent wicketkeeper-batsman and his pace attack is short on speed and penetration in the Test format.

  • on January 16, 2012, 3:22 GMT

    The last paragraph sums up the whole story. Excellent work Saad. Loved the article :)

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  • on January 16, 2012, 3:22 GMT

    The last paragraph sums up the whole story. Excellent work Saad. Loved the article :)

  • LillianThomson on January 16, 2012, 3:24 GMT

    Give me the reliability of a Misbah any day ahead of the occasional explosions of brilliance of an Umar Akmal or Virender Sehwag. Misbah is making the best of limited resources in an era when he must make do without Mohammad Amir for the full term of his captaincy, which deprives him not just of the world's best left-arm pace bowler but also of his best lower-order batsman. Misbah still has problems to cover though. His openers Taufeeq and Hafeez are moderate, there is no decent wicketkeeper-batsman and his pace attack is short on speed and penetration in the Test format.

  • rivernile on January 16, 2012, 3:31 GMT

    I think that Misbah is captain cool! He has shown great poise. Folks keep blaming him for the show against India in the world cup, but here is my take on the matter- if Misbah was scoring slowly, and he was, at least he was holding the inning together. What were the folks on the other side of the crease doing? How come they didn't pick up the tempo? Could you imagine if Misbah didn't bat in the manner that he does- where would Pakistan's batting be?

  • bill-iqbal on January 16, 2012, 3:45 GMT

    I am astounded and astonished when the fans have issue with Misbah's captaincy. Feels like the fans are not happy no matter what the result of the match. When we were loosing individuals had issues with it, when we were drawing fans wanted to team to go for the kill, and now at last we are winning, well....we are bring too defensive!!!!! We are a bunch of darn unhappy people. I say...Misbah...GO FOR IT. DO WHAT U THINK IS RIGHT. Just keep winning my man...keep winning. We are behind you.

  • Meety on January 16, 2012, 3:53 GMT

    IMO - defensive batting by Misbah's team is not a bad thing. For starters, the biggest problem Pakistan has had in the recent past is the batsmen have not shown much ticker or fight. Umar Akmal will possibly become a better batsmen for it. The other thing is - Pakistan (unlike India), always seem capable of taking 20 wickets, so they need their batsmen to give them good scores to play with. Whilst other sides would of toyed with Bangladesh or ridiculed them (Sehwag), Misbah trained his team to play a style of cricket that COULD beat England in the soon to be played Test series. England are the form side in Tests, IMO Pakistan are not far behind (form wise). After all the turmoil Pakistan has had in recent years, you'd think a steady as she goes type of captain AND team would be a blessing??????

  • Nigah on January 16, 2012, 4:13 GMT

    Slow and steady win the race, and it is true from generations.

  • landl47 on January 16, 2012, 4:13 GMT

    If Pakistan continue to play West Indies, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, (their opponents in 2011 and the opposition for all but 2 tests of Misbah's reign as captain) I expect them to continue to have success.

  • Desihungama on January 16, 2012, 5:04 GMT

    He has greater resources at his disposal? You mean like home advantage? To your 2nd point - He has invited the opposition to bat on six out of seven occasions when he has won the toss - Maybe he is fool enough to think bowling is their strength? Knowing bowling is my strength i'd done it 7 out of 7 times.

  • donda on January 16, 2012, 5:09 GMT

    I am a firm believer that test match is test of temperament and maturity. You go in to play for draw and if there is chance you go for win then. Misbah approach is perfect for pakistani cricket because of horrible year of 2010. Pakistan team has a perfect captain who thinks about safety first and then think about win. I like his style , vision and his victory ratio is better than a lot of other captains.

    We should all know that we are going to play against #1 team in the world , like a real heavy weight boxers England will be aggressive and try to punish pakistan and best approach is to play long and make them suffer and look for one weak moment and grab it.

    I hope instead of losing this series pakistan draw this series and stay happy. At home we cannot afford to lose any series.

  • on January 16, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    will misbah again starts tuk tuk in cricket............hahahahah