'Better to win by playing defensively' - Misbah
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has said he would rather win matches than worry about maintaining a balance between attack and defence. Though Misbah led Pakistan to six wins in 10 Test matches in 2011, there has been some criticism that he adopts a safety-first approach as captain.
"Cricket these days should be taken up with a balanced approach," Misbah said at the end of a four-day training camp at the Gaddafi Stadium organised to help Pakistan prepare for their upcoming series against England in the UAE. "[But] it's better to win by playing defensively, instead of losing by playing aggressively. It's all about the situation; what you are required to do or not do in a particular scenario."
The camp in Lahore mainly focussed on the bowlers and entailed strenuous fielding drills at the beginning of each day, as well as mental strengthening sessions for the players. Among the batsmen, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Imran Farhat and Mohammad Hafeez were spotted having intense sessions in the nets. A big positive to come out of the camp was that fast bowler Junaid Khan, who suffered an abdominal muscle strain during Pakistan's recent one-day series against Sri Lanka, was declared fit to play. The players have now dispersed and will reconvene on January 9 to leave for the UAE, with the first Test to begin on January 17 in Dubai.
England are the No. 1 Test team in the world according to the ICC rankings, but Misbah said his team would not be intimidated by their opposition's reputation. "My approach is simple in cricket: when you go onto the ground, give your 100% and focus on your performance. Forget about who the opposition is, do what you can do right, play tough cricket and then you look at the results. When you do all these things right, results will be in your favour."
While fast bowler Aizaz Cheema had said the conditions in the UAE are similar to those in Pakistan, Misbah said, based on his experience of playing in the UAE, both batting and bowling will be a challenge. "If you look at the conditions in the UAE, it's difficult for bowlers to take wickets, it's also difficult for batsman to score runs because of the slow pitches where the ball doesn't come onto the bat. It will be a challenge for both teams; both departments will have to work hard.
"England is a thoroughly professional team, and we have to put in real hard work to score runs against them and will have to bowl up to the mark to bowl them out."
The Decision Review System (DRS) is a welcome addition to the series, he said. "I always say it (the DRS) gives both teams a chance because umpires are also human-beings and they can make mistakes sometimes. This is an option for both batsmen and bowlers to help rectify the mistakes of the umpires. I am always in favour of this superb innovation. No doubt it needs better accuracy but I still believe it's quite helpful for the teams."
Pakistan had an impressive run in 2011; they did not lose any of the Test series they played and reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. They have been helped by consistent all-round performances, Misbah said. "If you look at our recent performance, Pakistan is doing well in every department: batting, spin bowling, fast bowling. We do lack [a bit] in fielding and there are a few lapses, but overall every department is doing the required hard work. Against top teams you can't depend on a specific department, you have to perform well in every department to compete."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent