DateLine: 3rd November 2014
We wish to thank www.PakPassion.net as exclusive source for the following interview.
The 40 year old captain of the Pakistan Test and One Day International teams, Misbah-ul-Haq has been featuring in recent headlines due to his record breaking performances where he equalled the record for the fastest century in Test cricket and his leadership which saw Pakistan complete a 2-0 whitewash against the world number one Test team, Australia.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net during the recently concluded Test series against Australia, Misbah spoke about his decision to take a break as ODI captain for one game, Pakistan's chances in the 2015 World Cup and reflected on his tenure as captain of the national team.
PakPassion.net: Did you sit out of the third ODI against Australia under pressure from others or was this your own decision?
Although there is always pressure to perform on players but in this particular case, the situation was that we had lost the ODI series and there was no real edge to the 3rd game. On top of that, we had Sohaib Maqsood who was warming the bench as was Umar Amin. We thought it would be a good idea to give them both a chance to play one of the matches.
You cannot run away from pressure which comes from media and fans alike and thatís something you as a player and captain have to deal with. I would have faced the same pressure whether I played or not. I guess the main reason was that I wanted a little break for myself and prepare for the Test matches ahead in the coming days.
PakPassion.net: How did you utilize your time during this break? Did you go back to the nets and work on your batting problems?
They completely removed any kind of pressure on me by saying that they werenít too bothered about my performance but they needed me as a captain only. They wanted me to forget about scoring runs as I had done plenty in the past four years and was now going through a lean patch where four or five matches had not gone too well Ė this was all part of the game and that I should concentrate on captaincy and leadership. Of course, they wanted me to work on my batting but that was not their main area of concern.
I would also like to thank the PCB and the Chairman of PCB, Mr. Shahryar Khan for his support during this time. More than that, I would like to offer a word of thanks to our senior and ex-players who went out of their way to support me. I must also thank the ordinary people and fans who also went out of their way to provide me with moral support which really helped as well.
PakPassion.net: There has been criticism of the batting position that you bat in. Can you tell us why you are reluctant to bat at any other position?
I have heard this from many people that I should be batting at the number three position. However, if the number four and five positions werenít that important then the likes of Mike Hussey or MS Dhoni would have all played at the number three position. The reason they donít bat at a higher position is because this is a very important batting position. On many occasions, you have to come in at this point and help in the recovery and consolidation of the innings. Additionally, you have some good new ball players who can do better at the top three positions. Whereas number five position tends to be the one I prefer, it is also true that I have played at the number four position against West Indies and Zimbabwe so it's not completely correct to say that that I have been very rigid about batting at a specific batting position.
As far as specifically not playing at the number three position is concerned, the fact is that I have never batted at that position, neither in domestic nor at an international level. Obviously, you will bat in positions you are used to playing in and thatís the case here. Also, in our team we usually play with three openers who are new ball specialists playing in those positions. So there really is no need for me to move them to the middle order Ė that makes no sense at all.
PakPassion.net: Given the way Azhar Ali stepped in place of Mohammad Hafeez to open the second innings in the first Test against Australia, do you feel that Mohammad Hafeezís position in the top order in the Test team is under threat?
PakPassion.net: With the 2015 World Cup not too far away and a handful of games left to try out new combinations etc, are you confident that Mohammad Hafeez is a necessity for this team?
PakPassion.net: Not too many experts put Pakistan as favourites for the 2015 World Cup. How do you feel about that? What specific plans do you have in mind to address the preparations for this mega event in Australia and New Zealand?
We are also practicing using marble slabs against short balls and also remember, when we go to New Zealand we will play some practice games there so I am confident that we are moving in the right direction.
PakPassion.net: So in a nutshell, what are Pakistanís chances in the 2015 World Cup?
PakPassion.net: Interesting that you mentioned practice against short bowling Ė Is this an area of concern for you personally?
ODIs are a different proposition, where the match situation may demand such shots to be played. One of the strategies the Australians always try to employ to trap batsmen is bowling short. In Dubai where there is uneven pace and bounce, its best that one sticks to playing other shots and leave the short deliveries alone. Also it's not my habit to play short balls.
PakPassion.net: Your strike rate whilst batting attracts a lot of criticism. How do you plan to address this issue in ODIs?
As far as strike rate is concerned, if you compare me with the top players, how huge a difference will you find? The fact is that the number four or five batting position is one where you need to come in and provide stability to the team. Your strike rate will always hover around the seventy mark. The strike rate may appear low but the idea is to be able to raise the rate later in the innings but only once you have stabilized the situation.
Coming back to recent events, in the series against Australia, I was out on the first ball in one game and then run-out in the next game. In that game, I was playing according to the demands of the situation which at that time was simply to stay at the wicket and get a 240+ score. You have to remember, my batting is never about myself or to look for any personal achievements Ė all that was in my mind that day was to try and make sure that the team got to a reasonable total.
PakPassion.net: How much has Sarfraz Ahmed impressed you in the Australia series and what kind of future do you see for him with the Pakistan team?
As a captain, I feel very pleased and hope to God that he continues contributing in this manner. He is playing extraordinary innings for us at the moment with an excellent strike rate to boot. Sarfraz is like oxygen for this team. Any captain would consider him lucky if he has a player like Sarfraz who can play an aggressive innings coming in at that position and also thereby put pressure on the opposing teams.
PakPassion.net: Yasir Shah has impressed everyone including the legendary Shane Warne. Early days yet, but do you feel he has the potential to be a potent weapon for Pakistan in the future?
As for Pakistan, this is a tremendous help as we havenít had a good leg-spinner for a while. This was one important aspect of our bowling attack which was missing. People would say that it was strange that after the likes of Abdul Qadir, Mushtaq Ahmed and Danish Kaneria, we had no one to carry on the legacy of this type of bowling. Now we do! He is young and definitely has a bright future with Pakistan team.
PakPassion.net: Going back in time a bit, letís talk about the period when you took over after the spot fixing saga came to light. What was the atmosphere like in the dressing room and how did you motivate the players?
Personally speaking, I never felt any pressure or difficulty in leading this team as they were all in good shape and all they needed was some guidance from me to move in the right direction.
PakPassion.net: The Misbah-ul-Haq we have seen for most of his career has been a serious looking fellow but the one we saw in the Test series against Australia was a much more relaxed one. Are we likely to see more of the latter?
PakPassion.net: What is the solution to the inconsistency in our batting displays?
PakPassion.net: What was the more painful loss, the 2007 T20 final against India or the 2011 World Cup semi final against the same opponent?
To tell you the truth, I regret being on the losing side on both occasions. The 2007 game was a one that we had almost lost but we were able to give ourselves hope and then lose it, whilst the 2011 game was in hand but we lost that as well.
Obviously one feels very sad about these games but you cannot change these things. The fact is that both these games are in the past and we have to move on. Yes, we learnt a few things from these lost games and applied the lessons to later games but we arenít perfect and will still lose games like these in the future.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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