Misbah-ul-Haq's tenure - more lows than highs, but he wasn't always to blame

Misbah took over when Pakistan were No. 1 in T20I cricket, but they have slid since, like they have in other formats too

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
Misbah-ul-Haq was head coach during a typically eventful period in Pakistan cricket  •  Getty Images

Misbah-ul-Haq was head coach during a typically eventful period in Pakistan cricket  •  Getty Images

The resignation of Misbah-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis only qualifies as a "shock development" if you were intent on straining for effect. Whether it is the Pakistan head coach, the PCB chairman, or indeed the PCB patron-in-chief, few end up leaving those positions on the same convivial terms they sweep into power, or with their reputations quite as intact.
One of the few guarantees the PCB can provide is if you have power there, it will end at some point, possibly quite soon, probably quite ignominiously. In the recent past, Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan head coach from May 2016, was summarily dismissed in August 2019 after Pakistan missed out on the 2019 50-over World Cup semi-final; he was intimated minutes before a media statement was sent out. And Najam Sethi, the then PCB chairman, was put to pasture by the patron-in-chief Imran Khan, no thank-yous in the piece either.
So, in typical PCB tradition, it was an eventful 24 months at the helm for head coach Misbah and bowling coach Waqar. Here's a look at the highs and lows from the period.

The highs

Pakistan's improved Test record
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Misbah's best moments as head coach came in the longest format. Seven wins and six losses in 16 Tests might not be a sparkling record, but it represented a marked improvement when held against the record of his predecessor Arthur: ten wins and 17 losses in 28.
Misbah's tenure saw the middle order, a point of concern following his own retirement and that of Younis Khan's, become a strength once more, with Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan providing a strong spine.
The wins, Zimbabwe aside, generally came at home. But a 2-0 series triumph in Karachi earlier this year against South Africa, perhaps represented the crowning glory of Misbah's stint. With cricket returning to Pakistan, the Test side has built something of a template for winning games at home, much like they did in the UAE. This side could even have enjoyed a series win in England for good measure, but for an extraordinary lower-order fightback from the hosts at Old Trafford last year in the only Test that produced a result in that series.
Rizwan's emergence
Removing Sarfaraz Ahmed as Pakistan captain and dropping him from the side for all three formats was a contentious decision, but for once, Pakistan had a transition plan in place. In Rizwan, Pakistan had a younger, sharper replacement, and a man who, unlike the former Pakistan captain, was in the prime of his career, both in front of and behind the wickets.
Once more, though, it is easy to forget that Rizwan wasn't always a dead cert to embed himself in the side across all three formats the way he has now. His inclusion in the T20I side, and the subsequent decision to open with him in New Zealand last December, induced open derision, both for the player and the head coach [who had stepped down as chief selector by then], who steadfastly backed him. Misbah didn't cave, though, backing Rizwan to the hilt.
Fast forward nine months later, and Rizwan has the most T20I runs in a calendar year, besides having captained Multan Sultans to the PSL title in June. He is now an automatic selection in the starting XI at the upcoming T20 World Cup, and also the vice-captain of the Test side. But for Misbah's enduring faith in him, it might have been very different.

The lows

Home T20I whitewash to Sri Lanka
When Misbah took over, Pakistan might have had a zillion problems, but their T20I side wasn't one of them. They had won 30 of the 37 T20Is they played under Arthur, and were the No. 1 side in the world and the favourites for the T20 World Cup [then, in the pre-Covid-19 world, scheduled for 2020].
In his first assignment, Misbah's side faced Sri Lanka, a side missing more than half a dozen first-team players who had opted not to tour Pakistan. Instead of sticking with the formula that seemed to have served Pakistan well in the format, the first thing Misbah did was call up Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad, two players frozen out by his predecessor. Not only was the move strategically vapid, it was also an unnecessary gamble and a gratuitous two-fingered salute to the previous head coach. It backfired spectacularly, Pakistan found themselves humbled 3-0 by a second-string side at home and Misbah immediately found himself on the back foot.
It might have been a one-off, but instead triggered a T20I slide that saw Pakistan spiral down the rankings all the way to seventh. The past two years also saw T20I series defeats in Australia, New Zealand and England, and a particularly infamous loss in Zimbabwe that saw Pakistan bowled out for 98 chasing 119. And today, Pakistan are nowhere near favourites for the T20 World Cup later this year.
Unusual and inconsistent selection
Consistency to the point of banality was the brand Misbah had carefully, painstakingly built his reputation on, but as chief selector, it was nowhere to be found. The recalls of Shehzad and Akmal hinted at the strategy of randomly pulling names out of a hat, but in the following month, the chief selector would turbo-charge it. A remarkable T20I squad for a tour of Australia saw Mohammad Musa, Khushdil Shah and Kashif Bhatti - remember him? - picked, alongside Usman Qadir, a man whom Misbah had publicly laughed off just a week prior. There was also room for another man Arthur had snubbed - Mohammad Irfan, who was called up, only to be swiftly dropped again after two games.
Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez would return for the Bangladesh series in a tug-of-war between experience and youth Misbah seemed to be fighting in his own mind. He admitted then that the "situation is alarming; we are going to keep experimenting until we get to our best combination".
Only months earlier, Misbah had taken over as head coach of what was then the world's best T20I side. Now, he was throwing names at the wall and hoping some of them stuck. It exposed a lack of vision and clarity - not just from Misbah the chief selector, but also Misbah the head coach.
Results on the field
This might be an age of sophisticated data analytics, but for many coaches, this remains the bottom line. Excluding results against Zimbabwe, whom Pakistan played several times in all formats, Pakistan lost more T20Is and Tests than they won under Misbah, and split eight ODIs 4-4. The reason for omitting Zimbabwe to elucidate the record should be obvious, but including those games would still see two Pakistan defeats at Zimbabwe's hands - one each in an ODI and a T20I. In the time Misbah was Pakistan head coach, the only other Full Member Zimbabwe defeated more than once were Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Ireland.
Multiple unaddressed problems
It would be unfair to lump this completely upon Misbah, but unlike Arthur, there was never any evidence of Misbah being terribly pressed about course-correcting Pakistan's slide back into fielding ineptitude. The departure of Steve Rixon - and not Arthur - marked the point at which standards dropped, but the degradation continued under Misbah, with no signs of stopping. Pakistan never really hired a fielding coach after Rixon; Grant Bradburn's appointment seemed half-hearted, even more so when he was shunted out to the National Cricket Academy high-performance centre last year.
And that, in itself, is a microcosm of Misbah's legacy. He was thrust into just about every role the PCB could throw at him, but he left many of those problems unaddressed. Pakistan's away Test record is still as woeful as it was before he arrived; they are no closer to finding a genuine Test opening combination and there seems no plan to get Pakistan back to the top table in T20I cricket either. He came into the role after Pakistan finished fifth at the ODI World Cup: currently, they are ranked sixth.

The verdict

With so much going on behind the scenes in Pakistan cricket, it is unfair to heap either praise or blame on one man, even if he wears as many hats as Misbah did. But this is the man who took over the Pakistan captaincy at its nadir in 2010 and left it at close to its zenith in 2017. Even Misbah's most ardent defenders would find it hard to argue that Misbah the head coach doesn't hold a candle to Misbah the captain.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000