Misbah to retire after WI Test series
Misbah-ul-Haq will walk away from international cricket once and for all, after the three-Test series against West Indies, which starts from April 21. Misbah made the announcement at a press conference in Lahore on Thursday, finally bringing to a close a long-running saga over his playing future.
"It will be my last series and I had conveyed this to the chairman (Pakistan Cricket Board) quite some time ago," Misbah told reporters at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. "I will try to finish it on a high note.
"There was no pressure on me. I was planning to quit after the England series in the UAE [in October 2015] but there were some things and I had to carry on playing. But overall it's fine and not like I am under any pressure or somebody has dictated this to me. I have myself understood that this is it and it's purely my own decision. It's a wrong impression that the board has enforced this as my last series or there's a patch-up between me and the cricket board. I thought to play against West Indies because it was important for us as we haven't won against them in their own backyard."
Misbah, who was named as one of Wisden's prestigious Five Cricketers of the Year on Wednesday, had been under scrutiny after a string of recent Test losses, which came shortly after they had achieved the No. 1 ranking in Tests. This also coincided with a dip in his own form. Pakistan suffered six consecutive Test defeats, and lost away series in New Zealand and Australia by margins of 2-0 and 3-0 respectively.
While Misbah played only one Test on the New Zealand tour, scoring 44, in Australia he managed 76 in three Tests at an average of 12.66. Following a duck in a dramatic second-innings collapse that saw Pakistan crash to an innings-and-18-run defeat in Melbourne, Misbah, in a despondent, unfiltered reaction, admitted he was unsure of his future in international cricket. However, he did go on to play the New Year's Test in Sydney, which Pakistan lost by 220 runs, and later said he was looking forward to playing the Tests in the West Indies.
Misbah, who retired from ODIs and T20Is after the 2015 World Cup, has played 72 Test matches so far, scoring 4951 runs and is currently seventh on the list of Pakistan's highest Test run-getters. He was appointed Test captain in October 2010, having played only 19 Tests at the time, and went on to become the side's most successful captain, with 24 wins in 53 matches. As captain, Misbah's batting average is currently 50.55, compared to his career average of 45.84, and eight of his ten Test centuries have come as captain. In August last year, Pakistan rose to the No. 1 Test ranking for the first time after drawing the series against England, and Misbah rated this as his best moment.
"A cricket career is like your life, it can't be smooth. There are failures and successes, and you learn from it. The last six years had been like this. You get disappointed a bit with your failures but you don't give up. You always try to learn from it and get better. You can't win every day. You learn a lot from your failures. Whatever achievements I had I am quite happy with it. I enjoyed it a lot and I am very satisfied with whatever I did.
"With Pakistan, it was my dream that we win the 2011 and 2015 World Cups but it wasn't to be. The best moment was when the Test mace came to Pakistan. The last two series were difficult, you do try overall but sometimes you are successful and sometimes you are not, so it's part and parcel of your life.
"At the moment I haven't thought about the future plans, you always try to do better but I haven't yet decided."
Misbah has often been criticised for his defensive and conservative approach as captain, including by the local media, although he has stated that he would rather win a game being defensive than lose one being aggressive. He urged critics to support the Pakistan team and refrain from subjective criticism.
"Personal criticism is not good for Pakistan," he said. "Instead of criticising personalities, it's better if we start talking positively about Pakistan cricket. It's always helpful for players and the country, otherwise being negative all the time give negative vibes and this affects players' energy and performances. Overall maybe Pakistan doesn't get much support, but we all, including me, make sure we as a country are behind our team and support our players so that morally they should go and fight in international matches."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent