Misbah-ul-Haq is set to lead a 17-day training camp for 20 Pakistan cricketers starting next week. The pre-season camp, according to a PCB media release, has been organised with a view to an upcoming year in which most of Pakistan's international commitments will be in the five-day format, with one eye on the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, which begins on September 12. Fourteen of the 20 Pakistan cricketers called up are centrally contracted players. Two days of fitness testing will be followed by by the conditioning camp, which runs from August 22 to September 7.
Misbah, whom the PCB release has termed the "camp commandant", will "craft the training programme and overlook of the camp until the recruitment process has concluded. During the pre-season camp, the players will undergo fielding drills and net sessions, along with fitness and other cricketing activities.
"The camp has been set up to prepare the players for a competitive and challenging domestic and international cricket season, which is expected to begin with the prestigious Quaid-e-Azam Trophy from 12 September."
It is not clear whether much can be read into the PCB giving Misbah the responsibility in the absence of a coaching set-up. When the PCB decided not to renew the contracts of head coach Mickey Arthur and his entire coaching staff, there was some media speculation that Misbah could be given the top job, though it is worth noting he has yet to complete the coaching badges or acquire the necessary experience the PCB is looking for in the next head coach.
It is more likely, perhaps, that Misbah's reputation for high levels of fitness well into his 40s as a Test cricketer have resulted in the PCB hand-picking him as an ideal candidate for the job. In 2016, when Misbah was the Pakistan captain, the side underwent a rigorous training regime with the Pakistan military at an academy in Abbottabad before a tour of England. When Misbah scored a century in the first Test following that course, he famously dropped to his hands and knees and reeled off ten push-ups on the Lord's turf, in tribute to the people who had put Pakistan through such a gruelling schedule, and as proof of his physical prowess.
Azhar Ali will join the camp after concluding his stint with Somerset, while Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman have been exempted to allow them to complete their time with their respective counties in England.
Zakir Khan, Director of International Cricket at the PCB, said: "This conditioning camp is of great significance. The players will undergo strenuous training sessions to prepare for a demanding season, which will see Pakistan spend 30 of their 42 cricket-playing days in Test cricket.
"Misbah-ul-Haq, who has been Pakistan's most successful captain, understands the arduous demands of the format in this day and age. With the advent of the World Test Championship, the PCB wants Pakistan to turn up with their best red-ball game when they face Sri Lanka in the two-match Test series at home."
Players called up
Centrally contracted: Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah.
Non-centrally contracted: Asif Ali, Bilal Asif, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mir Hamza, Rahat Ali and Zafar Gohar.