Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's latest Test captain, has hit back at criticism over his surprising elevation, arguing that he hasn't even had the opportunity yet to show his capabilities as a leader. Misbah has at least two Tests as captain against South Africa in the UAE next month.
"I do not agree with what they [former cricketers] are saying, doubting my abilities as a captain, and saying I am not capable of delivering," Misbah told reporters in Lahore. "I know the task assigned to me is not easy. However, underestimating me as a captain and batsman is not fair as one always learns with time and improves."
Wasim Akram was one of those surprised by the decision to give Misbah, who is 36, charge of the Test team a day after he was named in the squad for the first time since the tour of Australia in 2009-10.
Misbah, however, said he had spent time away from the team training and preparing for any comeback. "I did not give up. I used to train to keep myself in prime form," he said. "And I was engaged in cricket because I was confident that I can make a comeback, which eventually happened."
The series against South Africa will be Pakistan's first since the controversy-ridden trip to England, during which then captain Salman Butt and fast bowlers, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, were provisionally suspended by the ICC over their alleged involvement in a spot-fixing scandal.
Pakistan had problems on the field as well, their batsmen struggling in bowler-friendly conditions; they were bowled for under 100 twice in four Tests and rarely made it past 200. Misbah, however, was confident of a better showing in friendlier conditions in the UAE.
"I think it's a bit unfair to judge the batsmen solely on the tour of England, as batting appeared to be very difficult," Misbah told Pakpassion.net. "The batsmen at my disposal are much better than their statistics in England suggest. The conditions in the UAE will be more akin to what the Pakistani batsmen are used to seeing, and I am confident that the batting lineup will deliver against South Africa."
With Amir and Asif missing in action, Pakistan's bowling attack will rely heavily on Umar Gul and the spinners - Saeed Ajmal, Danish Kaneria and Abdur Rehman. "Our strength in the spin bowling department could be the key in the UAE," Misbah said. "We have three spinners in the squad and all are different styles of spinners, so the variety is there. There should be turn and bounce on offer, and it's up to them to make the most of those conditions."
The fielding - shockingly shoddy in England - remains a concern, as Misbah - one of the side's best slippers - acknowledged. "We cannot overcome it [poor fielding] in short time as we have been lacking in this department for years," he said. "Only sincere efforts and hard work by players can bring improvement in fielding."
South Africa, on the other hand, are likely to be in their usual, top fielding form when the first Test begins in Dubai on November 12.