Misbah ul Haq: 'Tempting' to consider PSL form for Pakistan side but players had their chances
"It's all about International cricket, how they do things here, and we have given them enough chances"
Pakistan head coach Misbah ul Haq indicated the form of several players in PSL 2021 "is tempting" to consider for national selection but their performances at the international level was a major concern. Pakistan's squads for the tours of England and West Indies series were announced earlier this month without consideration of the performances in the ongoing PSL in Abu Dhabi, which Misbah said was a result of logistical challenges due to the pandemic.
"Ideally, we could have waited for the PSL but then there are logistical challenges during Covid-19," Misbah said. "A few of the players' form is tempting and it appears like we are missing out but the major concern is their international performances. They all have had their chances and were picked up last year for their domestic performances but unfortunately, they couldn't translate it to the top level. It's all about international cricket and how they do things here, and we have given them enough chances.
"I know it's hard to ignore but we aren't overlooking either. It's just the timing of the tournament and the England tour dates [that we needed to consider]. There are still a few important games left in PSL and we will have more clarity on all players. We are keeping them in check and, if needed, we may explore them for future series. At the moment, we have our resources and want to focus on the selected lot and prepare them. They are very good and I am confident that we can manage to get the best of them."
The focus of Misbah's argument has been the performances of Asif Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed. Both batters have been repeatedly picked for the national team after strong performances on the domestic circuit but have failed to translate that form on the international stage. Both batters have also been in sublime form in the PSL, helping their franchise, Islamabad United, finish at the top of the table. Azam Khan has been called up to the T20I squad for the first time in his career after finding a powerful combination of consistency and a high strike rate in T20s over the last year. Haider Ali has also been retained in the white-ball squads despite a lean patch of international form last year. Imad Wasim was brought back to bring in experience and bolster Pakistan's middle order. Another issue for Pakistan has been the sudden dip in form for one of their most experienced batters, Mohammad Hafeez. Towards the end of 2020, Hafeez had reinvented himself in a year of unparalleled form - he scored the most runs in T20Is last year, with a tally of 415 at an average of 83.
Across T20s in the period between February 2020 and the end of February this year, Hafeez scored 1102 runs at an average of 50.09 and a strike rate of 147.32. Since then, he has scored just 155 runs in 13 matches at an average of 14.09 and a strike rate of 99.35.
"There is a worry that most of the players are seen collectively out of form other than Babar (Azam) and (Mohammad) Rizwan but it's just a matter of one good game," Misbah said. "In franchise cricket, players playing every day against different teams but in the international arena, there is a different mindset. The best factor for us is that they are coming up playing hard cricket and they are charged up.
"Players like Hafeez whose bad patch has extended a bit longer - and it happens - but he is an experienced player. He scored heavily and he has a tendency to come out of the bad patch. England has been good for him last year and I am very optimistic that he can deliver well for us.
"Our top order is responding well and our bowling unit is a strong unit and only focus is to quickly work on for Nos. 5 and 6. We have got the experienced batsman Haris Sohail in ODIs and another solid prospect is Saud Shakeel, so we are hopeful they can offer us the required stability. In T20 cricket we are still figuring out with all the resources we have. Haider and Azam are both young and we have time to prepare them for the role and they have the potential to give us what we need," Misbah said.