Misbah-ul-Haq: Speaks on India-Pakistan rivalry, county contract and World T20 absence

Misbah is in Dubai and tells our Paul Radley what he thinks of his erstwhile teammates' prospects against India, and explains why he is over that agonising final-over loss to the old rivals in the 2007 final.

DUBAI // The captain of the first winners of the Pakistan Super League is not part of their squad at the World Twenty20 in India.

Four years ago, he was asked to move on from Pakistan's T20 scene on account of being too old. Since then, he has equalled the record for the fastest Test century (which has since been broken by Brendon McCullum), taken the team to No 2 in the world in that format, and – as we said – won the first PSL with Islamabad United in February.

Is Misbah-ul-Haq bitter? Hardly. When the insults were being thrown, the inquiries were starting, and the general chaos was ensuing after Pakistan’s Asia Cup nightmare earlier this month, he felt the pain as acutely as any fan.

He was, though, in the privileged position of being able to help. He made no power grab. There was no politicising. Just a phone call to his mates – the captain and coach – to offer some tips, as well as some good luck wishes.

Misbah, who is in Dubai to provide expert TV analysis for OSN on the World T20 rather than in India to play in it for his beloved country, turns 42 in May.

Here he tells The National what he thinks of his erstwhile teammates prospects against India, and explains why he is over that agonising final-over loss to the old rivals in the 2007 final.

And that he expects to be in the Pakistan line up for the Test series in England starting in June, whether he gets a county contract in the meantime or not.

Have you got a county deal yet?

Misbah: Still looking. I haven't got one yet, but would be really happy to get one before that England series. Let's see, otherwise I am going to utilise that A team series which happens before the main tour [Pakistan A play three first-class tour matches before the Test series starts].

I’m looking to play in England before the main series because it is really important for me to just get prepared after a long, long lay off time when I haven’t been able to play international cricket. I am looking forward.

If you don’t get a county, you will still definitely be part of the Pakistan Test side?

I am really planning for it. It is really important for me and Pakistan. That is a big challenge for us, to go there and face that mighty team.

They are playing really good cricket, even outside England, but they are very strong in England. We have to prepare ourselves before going into that series.

How significant would winning a series in England be?

That would be massive. Really, giving them a good fight, especially as they are tough to beat in England, as they showed when they won the Ashes, it is going to be tough.

It will be a challenge but if we really want to prove our strength as a good Test team, we need to perform well there. If we really want our side to be at No 1, we have to prove ourselves there.

What stands out as the greatest achievement so far? Perhaps whitewashing England in the UAE in 2012 when they were the No 1 ranked Test side?

That was a special series because we were really struggling before that. They came here as the top side in the world, so beating them 3-0 was really amazing.

But then again, beating Australia here in the UAE was also something special for us. Before that, we hadn’t won against Australia. To win 2-0 against them was convincing.

We had inexperienced fast bowlers - Imran Khan and Rahat Ali - and Yasir Shah, too. These guys were almost new at that level. Even Zulfiqar Babar hadn’t played much international cricket, so that was a really big achievement.

Does it feel strange looking at the Pakistan side at the World T20 and not being part of it, even though you captained the winning team in the PSL?

[Laughs] Sometimes this happens. I was asked to leave T20 in 2012. At that time we were looking to build a new team with a new captain. The selectors and the cricket board thought I should focus on Tests and one-day cricket, so I made way for the youngsters.

In my personal opinion, at that time I was thinking I could have played a few more years of T20 cricket, but fine. If it is in the interests of the country then I am just going to focus on the one-dayers and Tests.

They were looking in a different way. It could have been really interesting for me, having played the last two T20 World Cups, and still I am enjoying T20 cricket at domestic level.

I have played [Bangladesh Premier League] and PSL. That was a wonderful experience for me, I really enjoyed that, but, OK fine.

I will be praying for the Pakistan team to play well there. The team is really good, it is all about how they perform there and how they show there skills there.

When you captain the Pakistan team, it seems from an outside perspective to be a serene set up. When other people are in charge, it often seems like there is chaos - like at the Asia Cup which preceded the World T20. Do you look at that and feel like you could be helping, or just feel like it is somebody else’s problem?

No, I always try to chip in. Whatever I have noticed, if there is something that is not right for the team, I always talk to the captain and coach, or the players also.

I have good relations with Shahid Afridi and the coach Waqar Younis. I always just try to give my input on different scenarios for the team. We know that it is all about us. It is all about Pakistan.

Whatever we have, whatever good we have, we try to give it to the guys who are trying to make Pakistan a better side.

I just talked to Waqar when they were ready to leave for the World Cup about whatever I had noticed in the Asia Cup. Let’s hope for the best.

How do you switch off from a job that is so all-encompassing as that of the Pakistan cricket captain? If people are saying “Misbah out” or “Afridi retire,” how do you cope?

You need to know yourself, and what is going right and what is going wrong. You don’t need to listen to other people about what is happening.

If you are satisfied in yourself, and you know these are my mistakes, or these are my positives and the good things that I do. If the results still aren’t coming, then what else can you do?

It is really important to know what is right and what is wrong. When you are satisfied in yourself, then people’s opinion don’t matter. You always keep trying your best and that is all I try to do when I am captaining and playing for Pakistan.

Sometimes you get the desired results, other time you don’t and you get criticism, but you have to bear that.

Just looking back to the 2007 World Twenty20 final, the match against India, how many times do you replay that shot, the scoop to Sreesanth, in your mind? How did it feel when it happened?

Obviously, in the final of a World Cup, that was a big disappointment. Taking a game from 70 for six, then when you are five runs short with four balls left, the game is in your hand - then you missed a shot you had played successfully so many times in that World Cup, it was a big disappointment.

You feel that disappointment for some time. It is difficult to forget a moment like that. But you have to live with it. You have to move forward, you have to forget the past, whatever you have achieved be it good or bad.

You have to focus on the present and the future. If you are living in the past, it will really have an affect on your future. You can’t do that, you have to move on.

Looking back at that shot now, it was my best shot, the shot I depended on a lot throughout that World Cup. I could not execute it properly, but that can happen with the best shots in cricket - the cut, cover drive, any shot.

For the best shot you have in your cricketing career, you can get four or six ... and you can also get out.

Now this India match. Their form had been irresistible before the tournament started, while Pakistan had a poor Asia Cup. Is a win possible?

It doesn’t matter. In India-Pakistan, it doesn’t matter what has been happening. If India are No 1 and Pakistan are No 9, or if Pakistan are No 1 and India are No 9, it doesn’t matter.

These games are always tight games. Anything can happen. Either side can beat the other. I’m looking forward to it.

Pakistan have a chance with the bowling line up we have. The batting is a little inconsistent, but still I believe we have a lot of potential in batting. It is going to be a big game for both the teams.

pradley@thenational.ae

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