Misbah-ul-Haq to join squad in New Zealand
The thinness of resources in Pakistan's middle order has opened the door for Misbah-ul-Haq to revive, once again, his international career. Misbah was dropped from all three Pakistan squads before the team left on its tour of New Zealand, following a poor run with the bat this year.
The withdrawal of Younis Khan from the New Zealand trip, however, not only left Pakistan without a captain, but also a No. 3 who averages 50 in Test cricket. Mohammad Yousuf, who took over the captaincy from Younis, immediately asked for Misbah's return, citing the need for his experience in a middle order which included inexperienced batsmen Fawad Alam and Umar Akmal in the first Test in Dunedin.
A member of the selection committee told Cricinfo that Misbah would most likely be in New Zealand before the second Test, due to begin in Wellington on December 3. "We don't know exactly what day he will go, but we are keen to send him there to be part of the squad," the official said. The decision needed to be approved by the board but that is thought to be a formality.
The request for Misbah's inclusion was initially turned down by Pakistan's selection committee. However, following the failure of most of Pakistan's batting line - the Akmal brothers apart - in the first innings of the ongoing first Test in Dunedin, the selectors agreed to send Misbah out to New Zealand. Before the younger Akmal saved Pakistan with a hundred on debut, Pakistan had collapsed to 85 for 5, and the middle order of Alam, Yousuf and Shoaib Malik, was looking undermanned, particularly with an opening pair as flimsy as Imran Farhat and Khurram Manzoor.
The decision is bound to cause comment, especially as Pakistan already have a large 17-man squad touring in New Zealand. Additionally, they already have a middle-order option, Faisal Iqbal, in place. If he plays, he will at least provide a safe pair of hands in the slips. Farhat, who has a long history of dropping chances in the slip cordon, was at first slip and he promptly dropped two in New Zealand's first innings.
Misbah returned to the Pakistan team after a five-year hiatus in 2007, in magnificent fashion. His inventive, fearless batting led Pakistan to the brink of World Twenty20 glory that same year, and he bolstered his reputation as Pakistan's man for a crisis by scoring two Test hundreds in India towards the end of the year. The returns since were not so spectacular and this year in particular has been poor - an average of 28.57 in five Tests and 300 runs in 13 ODIs. He has been scoring domestically, however, the route through which he came back into the national side in 2007 and the day he was axed, he responded with a career-best 284 in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy.