LAHORE: Misbah ul Haq, Pakistan’s Test captain will use the Pakistan Super League (PSL) as a platform by which to make a decision about his international future, and said that he is likely to take a call within the next month. Misbah is keen to assess his batting and hunger for the game as he leads Islamabad United, the defending champions, during the tournament’s second edition in the UAE. “The idea is to assess myself how badly I want to play cricket,” he told media. “I think in this one month I will make my decision to quit or at least give a certain date. I could easily have quit after England series in UAE [in November 2015] but that wasn’t the right way.” Misbah’s future has been the subject of ongoing speculation since that home series against England, but it has assumed greater urgency after Pakistan’s recent run of six consecutive Test losses as well as his dwindling contributions with the bat. But as he has said on a number of occasions, he explained again that he continued to play on out of a sense of duty to the team he has built over the last six years.
“You sometime don’t see your own achievements and personal gains,” he said. “You also have to think about the team you have built, you have to see where it stands at a certain stage. Otherwise it was easy for me to retire after taking Pakistan to number one. I don’t really think about my personal gains and I knew I had more to lose from Australia and New Zealand, bbut I think that wasn’t a right way to think about. I had to stand there and give youngsters a message that you have to face the music in tough situations, face the challenge. “That was my thinking behind and I am sure [critics] will come up with another narrative to disagree with me. No matter that you lose, but accept the challenge. Don’t run off. And at least give them [youngsters] the encouragement, stand behind them.” Misbah has already captained Pakistan in more Tests than any other leader, and has also led them to the most number of wins (24) – he does, however, have more losses against his record than either Imran Khan or Javed Miandad, Pakistan’s other most successful captains. His contributions as batsman have been significant as well, averaging 50.55 as captain. That places him in elite company in a list of the most successful batting captains (of those who have played at least 75 Test innings). Not that those numbers have shielded him from criticism. His batting style, especially, has been the focal point of criticism, even before his current run of low scores. Of late, however, those criticisms have stung him. He responded to Ian Chappell’s scathing critique of his captaincy in Australia and then, after criticism in Pakistan, was compelled to tweet a clarification about a statement he had made in Australia which referred to the 1999-00 Pakistan side that toured Australia. He took the opportunity to defend what has been derided as his conservative approach to batting.
“In the middle order where I bat, it is important for me to bring stability whatever the situation,” he said. “If we are four down then being an experienced batsman I should go and anchor partnerships and try to rebuild. The idea always is to take the team to a respectable total on which our bowlers can give a fight. “But i feel angry when former players who have played the game at highest level, whose understanding about the game is even better than mine, still target my batting.” Misbah will turn 43 in May and was, until as recently as last summer, among the fittest players in the side. Fitness is one of the areas Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was keenest to work on when he took over. The lack of it is something that has told over the course of a long tour of Australia and it is an issue, Misbah said, on which there should be no compromise. “It’s very important to think about how badly you want to play cricket and what your priorities are for cricket. If you are 19 or 20 and you are not doing enough on fitness, your priorities are not right, you are not performing then you should leave. In fact you should be kicked out. It’s very simple. “Someone over 35 or 40, if he is physically fit, he can bring much benefit to the team because at this age you are mentally very strong, you have all the experience, temperament and exposure. So it’s all about what your priorities are, what your mindset and passion for the game is.”