Exclusive: Misbah-ul-Haq will decide whether to resign captaincy, says PCB chief

But president Shaharyar Khan denies the PCB had anything to do with call to step aside for Abu Dhabi ODI, he tells Osman Samiuddin.

Misbah-ul-Haq has been the Pakistan cricket captain for four years. Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
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The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has left it up to Misbah-ul-Haq to decide whether he will lead Pakistan in the 2015 World Cup, at the same time quelling speculation that Misbah was pushed into stepping down from the side for the third and final ODI against Australia in Abu Dhabi.

Misbah was publicly assured of the ODI captaincy until the World Cup just last month. But late on Saturday evening, after he had overseen a series loss to Australia, Misbah took the decision to step away from the side for the final, dead rubber game in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

That immediately sparked speculation that his own poor form and increasing criticism of his leadership, as well as unhappiness within the team, had forced him into what may be a permanent decision. Shahid Afridi took over the captaincy on Sunday.

But speaking to The National, the PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan said that Misbah had come under no pressure to step aside and that he would, if he chooses, remain the one-day captain into the World Cup.

“Misbah-ul-Haq decided that he needed a break from the rather depressing scores he has had in Sri Lanka as well as here,” Shaharyar said. “The management also agreed that if he wants to sit this out, it is his own decision. No one coerced him into doing this. He himself decided that this is the right time for him to take a break and see if he can recover in the Tests.”

Misbah was said by close observers to have been increasingly disappointed with a lack of support from within the team structure. Though there is no suggestion that Afridi has played a part in his stepping down, the pair have inadvertently competed for the leadership of the 50-over side from early 2011.

Having taken over the Test captaincy in late 2010, Misbah was in the running to become ODI captain as well running into the 2011 World Cup. The PCB stuck with Afridi, however, and he took Pakistan to the semi-finals of that tournament.

But once he was removed in May that year, following a public falling out with coach Waqar Younis, Misbah took over and had held the position through 75 matches.

Despite building up a winning record of 39 wins and 33 losses in that period, criticism has never been far.

Additionally, Afridi’s popularity as a player and a perceived aggression that is contrasted with Misbah’s more defensive style has skewed the debate.

But the absence of Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal from the current XI has also played a role. Both have been staunch allies of Misbah and without them, it is said that he had begun to feel isolated. The form that Shaharyar referred to has not been great: in his last five ODIs he has just 82 runs, including a first-ball dismissal in the first ODI against Australia in Sharjah.

Only last year though he was the world’s leading ODI run-scorer with 1,373 runs. It is that form which has allowed the PCB to back him even at this point.

“Naturally he is a human being and he is depressed at the fact that he hasn’t been scoring and when you don’t score and you’re skipper, the whole team suffers,” said Shaharyar, who had a half hour discussion with Misbah.

“What I found very noble on his part is that he said if the day I get an idea that the team is suffering because of me, then I will say myself, let me go. But I have hope right now that I can recover from this, and show my mettle.

“I or management have not influenced Misbah to step down, he has done it on his own, he is determined to return. He says if I am back to form I would like to lead in the World Cup.

“I told him, we appointed you till the World Cup. We were criticized for it and we will be now even more as he has not scored runs. But we remain totally firm behind you that he will lead. If you yourself think your leadership will not deliver, then it is up to you. We will not push you out.

“This is the view of all three of us – Waqar and Moin [Khan, chief selector and manager], and I have told Misbah this. Waqar and Moin are agreed on this. He is determined to put things right and if he does he is back.”

Other names have been considered as contingency, Shaharyar added, but said the decision will be left to Misbah.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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