Former Pakistan cricket heavyweights have asked Misbah-ul-Haq to call time on his illustrious career, blaming his poor batting and uninspired captaincy for the 3-0 whitewash to Australia.
Misbah, who at 42 is the oldest current international cricketer, saw his side slip to a 220-run defeat in the third and final Test in Sydney last Saturday (7), his final score of 38 accounting for half of his entire runs tally of 76 for the series.
After the loss, Misbah said he would take his time to decide on the future – a reversal of an earlier announcement that he would quit following the defeat in the second match last week. Mickey Arthur, the coach, has also urged him to stay on.
Since taking over the captaincy in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal in 2010, Misbah has led Pakistan in 53 Tests, winning 24, losing 18, and drawing 11.
He also briefly led his team to number one in Tests last year, despite playing no matches at home. The feat earned him widespread acclaim throughout the cricketing world.
But Ramiz Raja, the former captain turned commentator, said it was now time for Misbah to move on.
“I think Misbah’s time is up,” he said. “Every sportsman goes through this phase and captain Misbah has offered enough, so it’s time to move on.
“I think a captain can only give his best for five years – a period where he gives his maximum – and then his flowchart goes down. After that, opponents know about his strategies and Misbah has spent that in a glorious way. He has played his innings well to become Pakistan’s most successful skipper.”
Ramiz, a former CEO of the Pakistan Cricket Board, added that Misbah’s captaincy had taken a sharp turn for the worse in the series, with bizarre field placements and a failure to inspire his charges.
“I think Misbah was let down by his bowling and his field placings were not accurate either,” he said.
Pakistan’s trump card, Yasir Shah, took only eight wickets in the series with his legspin, conceding a whopping 672 runs, the most by a bowler in a three-match series.
Ramiz’s words were echoed by Wasim Akram, the former paceman.
“It’s not my call, but perhaps if I was in his place I would have quit at this point, having achieved so much,” he said.
“When I lost 3-0 in Australia in 1999, I was replaced as captain despite the fact we fought hard in the first two Tests – but a defeat has such consequences.”
Wasim said Younis Khan, 39, Pakistan’s all-time leading Test batsman, had prolonged his career by finally hitting a big score of 175 not out in the final match of the series.
“Before the third Test, I was of the opinion that Younis should also go, but he batted well and can play for some more time,” he said.
Misbah said the side will not end their touring misery in Australia until they can adapt to playing conditions in the country.
The loss was Pakistan’s 12th straight Test defeat and their fourth 3-0 series loss Down Under in a row. Their last Test win in Australia was in Sydney 22 years ago.
“I think it’s important for us to get the experience of these conditions, and if we are not touring more often in Australia and South Africa, that could happen again and again,” Misbah said.
“I’ve already suggested that some of our players should be sent to Australia on a regular basis to play games there to get used to these conditions at an early stage.
“Some of the guys who might be in line to come here for a series in two or three years should be sent to Australia and South Africa for two or three months to play state games or whatever.”
Among the differences in conditions are the bounce in the faster surfaces in Australia, and more moisture, compared to slower pitches in India and elsewhere in Asia that are more conducive to spin.
“Whether it’s a bowling unit or batting unit, we’re going to struggle. These conditions are completely different to any others,” added Misbah. “In any other country you can survive, but in Australia, you need supreme fitness.”
He pointed to Pakistan’s ability to bowl out Australia only once in five innings, costing them any chance in the series.
“It’s not easy for Asian batsmen to come here and score runs, and it’s difficult for any Asian side to come here and take 20 wickets in a Test match,” Misbah said.
He said the shattering last day defeat in the second Melbourne Test, when the tourists were bowled out in just 53.2 overs to tumble to an innings defeat, was a turning point.
“The last day of the MCG was the biggest disappointment of the tour. We got demoralised from that and could not recover,” he said. “This is how it is. Australia is not an easy place.”
Misbah said among the few positives of the Test series was the batting form of Azhar Ali, Younis Khan and Sarfraz Ahmed.
Azhar finished as the highest Pakistan run-scorer in a series in Australia with 406 at 81.20, while Younis scored an unbeaten 175 in the first innings of the Sydney and fell 23 runs short of becoming the first Pakistan batsman to reach 10,000 Test runs.
Wicketkeeper Sarfraz top-scored with an unbeaten 72 off 70 balls in the second innings and ended the series with an average of 56.50.