The series against England in the UAE is shaping as the last for Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq. Although he had initially hoped to continue until next year's tour of England, the forthcoming contest is looking increasingly likely to be the final chapter of an international career which began in 2001.
"I have come to a certain stage of my career where I have started considering [retirement]," Misbah, 41, told ESPNcricinfo. "I was thinking that the upcoming India series would be the point when I will decide what to do. But since I don't see the India series happening so the next one-and-half months will be important. I am giving second thoughts whether I can extend my career until the 2016 England series."
The series against India, scheduled to take place in the UAE at the end of the year, now appears unlikely to happen due to the tense political landscape which would mean an eight-month gap before the series against England next July. Since Misbah has already retired from ODI and T20 cricket he will have little chance for competitive cricket after the Pakistan domestic season concludes in February.
"I have been considering so many factors as it's a very hard decision, in fact one of the toughest ones to take," Misbah said. "So in the next one-and-half months I will be analysing myself as to how far I can go. I will see how much I can contribute in for the team, I will see if my passion remains the same or I start losing interest in the game. Sometimes it's not about fitness, it's about how much interest you have in the game and I don't want to be a liability. So whatever the decision you will know soon."
For the upcoming series, starting with the first Test in Abu Dhabi on October 13, Misbah said he will be guarding against the team being over confident after they whitewashed England in 2012. Misbah, along with Azhar Ali, Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq, will form the same middle order which featured in that series. He, along with several other Test players, are currently having a conditioning camp at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, while the one-day side is in Zimbabwe, before leaving for the UAE on October 4.
"Within our mind we are confident," Misbah said. "But at the same time creating a perception about our past victory against them by 3-0 doesn't make any difference. This is fresh series. England are a much-improved side and are coming after playing their best cricket back home. They are a far better side in terms of playing spin and this is the reason I stand guarded against us being over confident.
"Having won 3-0 previously doesn't mean that they are still a soft target and we can wrap them up easily. No, it's not that simple. We have to understand that setting the expectation level based on the previous series isn't a fair call. We simply have to work very hard and play at our full potential to win. I don't think that previous series victory is going to help us and we don't need to put undue pressure on us with it. It's not that we can't win, but I just want to insist that you can't ride on the past to make your future."
In 2012, England arrived in the UAE following a lengthy lay-off from Test cricket having not played a match in five months after beating India, at The Oval, in August 2011 to go to No. 1 in the world. But this time they have flown in having won the Ashes less than two months ago, although they only have two two-day warm-up matches before the first Test which Alastair Cook has admitted is not much preparation.
While Misbah reiterated his belief that England now play spin better than when they previously faced Pakistan, it did not escape him that their spin bowling resources are significantly 'weaker' than in 2012 having lost both Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.
"They are in good form, so are we, but we have to play good cricket," Misbah said. "There is a difference in their squad as many of their players have started to play the spin very well. They have changed their game, as we have seen they are using their feet and sweeping all over so we have to be on our toes to get their wickets.
"Their fast bowling is the same but their spinners are weaker this time in the absence of Swann and Panesar. We have answers to their experienced fast bowlers, we understand we have to work hard to negotiate the new ball and later the reverse swing. Their bowling never gave us the chance to score big runs in 2012, but we have plans this time and in the UAE it's all about scoring big runs.
"In the UAE conditions runs on the board are very important and then the spinners play the vital role. When Australia came we had answers so is it's the same this time. Australia had Nathan Lyon, England have Moeen but what is important is who is going to bat well in these conditions."
England played their cricket very aggressively against Australia, with none of the five Ashes Test going into the fifth day, but Misbah suggested it will very different in this series.
"You can't just go all out aggressively like the cricket England have been playing back home. It's different in the UAE. You can't just be defensive either, though. As I said, you need to have big runs on board and that requires patience as pitches here change their behaviour on a daily basis especially on the fourth and fifth day. So there are a lot of factors that mean you need to have a balanced approach. And that is the key."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson