South Africa v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Bloemfontein March 9, 2013

Misbah rubbishes reports of rift with Hafeez

Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has denied reports of a rift with Twenty20 leader Mohammad Hafeez ahead of the five-match ODI series against South Africa.

The Pakistan media alleged the pair had been involved in a verbal altercation during the warm-up match against the South African Invitation XI in Kimberley on Wednesday. Hafeez was not part of the playing XI in that game, which the tourists won in the last over, by just one wicket. Some publications claimed the main event was not the victory but a disagreement between the two players.

The main issue of contention was apparently Hafeez's position in the batting order. According to reports, Misbah wants Hafeez to bat at No. 3 while Hafeez wants to open, and Misbah is in favour of playing two allrounders - Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik - while Hafeez wants more bowlers.

Misbah refuted all those claims. He called it "irresponsible and baseless" reporting, and said the team had laughed at the suggestions of infighting. "People who are putting out those stories should be ashamed of that. The team is like a family, we are playing here like a family, we all support each other and there is nothing wrong."

He also said such allegations tend to emerge "whenever we lose a few games", as was the case in the Test series, and performances like their Twenty20 one would quell the chorus. "That [the T20 win] was really good for us and brought back a lot of confidence for the batsmen," Misbah said.

Pakistan's management also moved swiftly to dismiss the assertions. Team manager Naved Cheema said the reports were part of a conspiracy to destabilise the team: "It has become a common practice to launch a propaganda campaign against the team by targeting players ahead of an important event, but the team management is fully aware of the situation and is determined to defy all such moves in the larger interest of the Pakistan team and cricket. Our aim is to take Pakistan cricket higher with our team playing quality cricket and producing positive results."

The PCB issued a statement rubbishing the claims as well yesterday. The statement said: "[In view of] reports in a few media outlets that there was supposedly a disagreement amongst the think tank of Team Pakistan, in particular between skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez, with regards to the selection of the ODI XI, the PCB high-ups launched a thorough inquiry. The team management was contacted in South Africa and it was discovered that no such disagreement whatsoever existed amongst the think tank, or between Misbah and Hafeez. It is therefore stated for record that all such isolated reports in the media are baseless … and an attempt to demoralise the team."

Meanwhile, Misbah was upbeat about his team's chances in the one-day series and said they would rely on their spinners to keep South Africa tied down. "Our spinners are world-class and can really bowl well in any sort of conditions, especially in ODI games where we have to restrict the opposition by bowling dot balls," he said. "In the one-day format, we can always put up a good show. South Africa are a good side, but they will find it a little difficult in this format."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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