Mohsin Khan, the acting Pakistan coach, has come out in defence of captain Misbah-ul-Haq's tactics that have been perceived as defensive by some, saying that his safety-first approach is due to the fear of failure. Misbah, 37, was handed the reins after the spot-fixing controversy, and while his methods did not always make for attractive cricket, they shephered Pakistan through one of their most successful years across formats.
"I think you have to understand that at his age he still worries about the fact that if he fails in one or two matches the critics will be after him and he could be dropped," Mohsin said in an exclusive interview with television channel Geo Super. "That is why he at times tends to play it safe. But he has gained in confidence as a captain, and I have been trying to tell him to not think about these things and just focus on doing what he is doing best at the moment: leading the team by example."
Misbah's stint as captain began with a tough Test assignment late last year against South Africa in the UAE. Few gave the depleted Pakistan side - sans Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif - a chance, but they held South Africa to a creditable 0-0 draw. Misbah then oversaw a 1-0 Test series win in New Zealand, and played an integral part in the ODI series triumph on the same tour, under Shahid Afridi's captaincy.
Pakistan exceeded expectations to reach the World Cup semi-finals, and continued with their winning ways in the West Indies, though Shahid Afridi had a fall-out with the team management. Pakistan won the one-day leg and came back to square the Tests 1-1. After that tour, Misbah was handed the reins of the limited-overs side as well, and led Pakistan to victories in all formats against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The winning run in Tests was set up by the solid, if unexciting, methods of Taufeeq Umar, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali and Misbah himself, with Mohammad Hafeez the only free-flowing scorer in the top order.
Mohsin was full of praise for Misbah's leadership methods. "I think Misbah is an intelligent player and composed captain, and he communicates well with the players. He has also quickly picked up the confidence to push for victories, plus he is batting extremely well. I tell him to just go out and get runs and don't waste any innings. He has served Pakistan cricket very well."
Mohsin also explained that his role as coach was to focus on the mental aspect of the game and ensure he got the maximum out of the side, rather than spoon-feed his players on the skills front. "I think I have got along well with the players in the team. People need to understand that nowadays the job of a coach is to mentally make his players stronger, and just guide them and discuss strategies with them. A coach is a planner. I don't think you can teach anything more in batting terms to Misbah or Younis at this stage.
"I have told the players that being professionals we are also supposed to deliver; no compromises on that. My mantra is to give your 100% on the field; win or lose, that is part of the sport. Millions of people pray for our success and we shouldn't let them feel we let them down or didn't try hard enough."