Pakistan v England, 2nd T20, Dubai February 24, 2012

Misbah hits out at captaincy critics


Misbah-ul-Haq has led an impassioned defence of his captaincy and urged the media not to destabilise Pakistan cricket by pursuing "their own agendas".

What should have been a moment of celebration for Misbah and his team was soured when Pakistan's captain was asked about his own position in the press conference following victory over England in the first of three Twenty20 internationals.

It is not hard to understand why Misbah might have been irritated. He assumed the captaincy of Pakistan in late 2010 with the team disgraced and defeated. Not only that, but he was denied some of the nation's best players due to their involvement in the spot-fixing controversy.

He responded better than most could have dreamed possible. Not only did Misbah restore the good reputation of Pakistan cricket on the pitch, he has done so off it, too.

He has led Pakistan to five Test series victories out of seven - the other two series were drawn - including the recent 3-0 whitewash of England, the No. 1-ranked Test team. On Thursday he led Pakistan to victory over the No.1-rated T20 team in world cricket and afterwards vented his frustration at the media - and the Pakistan media in particular - who seem to want Shahid Afridi restored as captain.

"Even after when we won the Test matches, I continuously told the media we should be patient and consider the realities," Misbah said. "We go on to discuss things that don't need to be discussed - when we perform badly we should talk about that, we should talk about weak areas in the team. People in the media make comments based on furthering their own agendas, not ground realities. This needs to stop; the media should think positively.

"I won't comment on any specific individuals, but you can hear it yourself when you listen to the reports in the media. I also say even after winning we shouldn't go overboard - we should base such discussions on facts. Appreciate the attributes in the team which are to be admired - even after winning, pinpoint specific mistakes - if a player isn't making centuries, or a bowler is not taking wickets, then discuss those points.

"What we shouldn't do is start speaking ill of individuals. As a team we lost the ODI series: don't blame one player or just the captain. The dramatic changes highlighted are unnecessary. It is these players that have won you six series. If we made mistakes and lost a series against a top team, then we should be backed. If the proposed changes highlighted by the media were implemented, we would have six captains and six different teams up to the World Cup in 2015.

"We cannot improve if we continuously ask for captains and teams to be replaced after losing one series. You have to back your players at a certain level."

Misbah's real problem - and it is a problem without a solution - is that he is not Afridi. The populist adoration for Afridi - for his charisma, his talent and his aura - is boundless. Misbah, with his more prosaic qualities of reliability, calm and consistency, is overshadowed by comparison. While logic might back Misbah, emotions are with Afridi.

"We cannot improve if we continuously ask for captains and teams to be replaced after losing one series"

When Afridi drops a batting glove a nation stoops to pick it up. When Afridi fails with the bat - and, unpalatable though it will be to Pakistan supporters, he fails with the bat rather too often - a nation mourns his ill fortune. When Misbah scores 50, a nation frowns upon the slow pace at which he scored it. Misbah could invent a cure for cancer and someone will claim that Afridi would have done it with more panache.

Afridi is a cricketer - a man, even - of immense charm. He is a magnificent limited-overs bowler, a courageous fielder and a batsman who has, upon occasions, dazzled. But he was fired as limited-overs skipper in May 2011 after returning early from the tour of the Caribbean and following the disintegration of his relationship with Waqar Younis, the coach at the time.

His record as captain is also modest: Afridi has captained Pakistan in one Test, 34 ODIs and 19 T20Is. The Test was lost, as were 11 of the T20Is, though he led his side to 18 wins in ODI cricket.

Compare that with Misbah's record as captain. He has led in 15 Tests (nine wins, five draws and just that one loss against the West Indies), 19 ODIs (14 wins and five losses) and six T20Is (all of which have been won). In the light of such figures, it is somewhat bewildering that Misbah is obliged to continually defend his position.

Misbah was frank about Pakistan's greatest weakness: the fielding of his side remains poor. He warned there will be no short-term solutions, but suggested with the bowling attack he has at his disposal, Pakistan will always be capable of success. Afridi, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal are the top three wicket-takers in the history of T20Is and Misbah felt it was Gul's bowling that made the difference on Thursday.

"It's a natural phenomenon," he said. "We don't focus on fitness and fielding at grass roots level. Our fielding is much improved from before, but we have to put in a lot of effort to improve. It's not a problem that can be solved overnight.

"When you have Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi, three of the top bowlers in T20 cricket, top wicket takers, you always have a chance. They bowled well and kept the pressure on. When a bowler is at his best it's difficult to play him. Gul bowled well. There was no answer to his bowling.

"The win was important considering the situation in which we were in. The senior players had to perform and Umar Gul's return to form was necessary. Shoaib Malik showing form was also important. It was a much-needed win to bring our confidence back."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on February 26, 2012, 23:08 GMT

    @drdani on (February 26 2012, 10:44 AM GMT) You write some good balanced posts my friend

  • mohammad on February 26, 2012, 13:23 GMT

    Well, captain issue again in the middle of a series, usual pakistani trait. Imran, Mudasser, Iqbal Qasim and otheers are not saying captain is the probem. Second T20 is won by a young batsman, not by the captain. What is Afridi's performance in the ODI series and the T20? Afridi's captaincy is not the solution, you need good batsman and bowler. England is a better team and they are wining.

  • dani on February 26, 2012, 10:44 GMT

    i think eveyone agrees that misbah is a good test captain..we are arguing that he should not captain the side in odi n t20..a great percentage of us pakistai would like to see misbah's back in these formats..may be it is the right thing..BUT..BUT..BUT we have to be consistent guys, atleast till the t20 world cup..misbah has done a great job not only keeping pak team together but also giving us a taste of victories, as is evident from our record of past 12-18 kindly let pak team build..everything takes time n 'rome was not built in a day' ;)

  • Er.Pervez on February 25, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    Pakistan field positioning always demands much.Either 3rd man or deep cover is not placed,with the result maximum runs are given towards these directions.This is pathetic & one can only hope that skipper or coach pays attention towards these lapses.Why Hafeez is asked to open innings.He shall never prove successful.Instead Afridi can open as he is a pitch hitter & in case he gets along,can change the nature of game.At his existing position, he has proved a failure.Pakistani batsmen have of late developed a bitter tendency to spontaneously offer bats unnecessarily for a kiss of a nick to out going balls towards slip direction..They don't play with full blade & towards the open field.They even find difficulty to pick up gapes and to play along the ground but mostly sky the ball.Worthy coaches need to teach them to rectify these defects.

  • Taj on February 25, 2012, 15:47 GMT

    Here are some comments from cricket lovers from Chicago. Although we admire the mercurial personality of Mr. Afridi, the captaincy of a team requires serious management talents, which unfortunately Shahid Afridi seriously lacks. Misbah ul Haq is a talented leader, has proven skills to captain Pakistan team and in fact after the recent test series, he clearly demonstrated that he was able to lead a weaker team against a much stronger England team. Our request to Pakistan media and those who are trying to promote their relatives or others is to be unbiased and objective and you will conclude that Misbah is the clear answer to be the Captain of the Pakistan team.

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2012, 15:47 GMT

    hi plz bring imran nazir with owais zia in opening for t 20 and odi and misbah is a good cricketer and captain let him play and plz bring a good wicket keeper batsman and changing is the nature of pakistani people but plz someone and give some time time becoz when misbah won test series everyone says yeh he is the best captain but now plz let him play give him time

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2012, 15:16 GMT

    Misbah is not a good captain so my opinion is that to change our captain pakistan has plenty of good captain like m Hafeez and shahid afridi so change our captain to change the future of pakistani cricket

  • Dummy4 on February 25, 2012, 15:12 GMT

    1-There should be no comparison b/w any player in the team, they must be supported by us equally. 2- Losing 1 or 2 games can never decide that the faces should change, the example of indian cricket team is in front of us, they are now world champs with there consistant team. 3-Think + and just support the team, because usually we just watch all this on TV or live in statdium but only the soldier knows whats hapening on the front... Thanx

  • Rashid on February 25, 2012, 15:12 GMT

    He is remarkably calm and has done a wonderful job so far. Most people however do not understand why he continues to insist on Shoaib Maliks inclusion in the team.

  • Aamir on February 25, 2012, 15:00 GMT

    Guys, Misbah is a good captain along with him being a good player. He has a steady run rate of which we were complaining about the run rate lacking in the squad. Never would I like to see Hafeez be the captain. Never. He isn't a match winner so should stick to playing his role as an allrounder. Afridi is not a bad captain. Afridi realises talent in the squad and would not have "5" spinners in the team (I'm not criticising Misbah as I like Misbah's captaincy but I'm saying the truth). Remeber how Afridi promoted Hammad up the order in the WI series? He wants to give good opportunites to youngsters as possible. Afridi would also include youngsters like Sadaf Hussain also. His rotation is quite good of what I saw. An example was Usman Salahuddin being given a chance but didn't do well, so he sent him back to improve his game. So either way, Misbah should remain as captain until retirement. The captaincy should be given back to Afridi. And I heard that Misbah won't captain in the Asia cup.

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