Misbah-ul-Haq named coach and chief selector of Pakistan national team
The most winningest captain in Pakistan's Test history and the overseer of arguably their most successful period has been handed a huge amount of control over the national side, with Misbah-ul-Haq being named both head coach and chief selector this week. Misbah, who played 75 Tests, 162 ODI's and 39 T20I's in his storied career, had been widely touted as a likely candidate for the head coaching job, but it wasn't until hours before the deadline that he actually applied.
A primary reason given for his delay in applying for the role was the fact that he is also set to take up a role as coach of Pakistan Super League team Islamabad United. Assuming he goes ahead with that role, he will be in the position of coaching both the national side and a team in the nation's domestic T20 league simultaneously - while also holding duties as the chief national selector. While this situation may appear unique, previous coach Mickey Arthur was in virtually the same position, coaching Karachi Kings at the same time as he was head of the Pakistan national side. Interestingly, that situation was the cause of significant debate and some controversy, but evidently the five-man panel who appointed Misbah have no qualms with repeating the same circumstance.
Interestingly, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Ehsan Mani, had questioned the potential conflict of interest that could arise when the national coach had a secondary role with a domestic side. And last year, then-chief selector for Pakistan, Inzamam-ul-Haq, was removed from the PSL player draft committee as he was also working as a talent scout with the Lahore Qalandars. Evidently, this potential conflict of interest was in a purely domestic sense, and the same rules have not been applied across international and domestic lines, which is where Misbah's potential conflict would arise. The potential problem with the Misbah situation, of course, is that he will have extra exposure and the potential for extra sentiment towards the players he coaches domestically - not that it would necessarily impact any decisions he makes as coach or selector, but the possibility is there. Some may question the decision to give so much power to one man, but if you ask PCB CEO Wasim Khan about it, he prefers to use the word 'innovative'.
Regardless, he was selected as head coach in what was a relatively thin field of candidates, and his appointment as chief selector gives him an enormous amount of power over cricket in Pakistan. He was given a three-year contract, and during this period he will be working closely with Waqar Younis, who was also given a three-year contract as bowling coach of the side. Of course, Misbah and Waqar have a long and successful history working together - Waqar Younis was the coach of the national side for much of the seven year period in which Misbah was captain, and under the two Pakistan had some of the most successful periods in their history.
With regards to how the team will fare under Misbah, some have raised concerns about a man often regarded as a defensive player coaching the team. According to Misbah, however, 'your strategy is based on the resources you got. Ideally, you obviously try and wish to have the resources that you can just dominate and knock out the opposition'. Of course, that is not always the case, and for a Pakistan team that has struggled in recent years it's a long way from the reality. 'Being a coach,' he said, 'I will try to build a team that plays aggressively and wins easily. But then at certain times you have to assess the strength of the opponent and make your strategy accordingly'.
He also played down the amount of influence he has been given over Pakistan cricket, stating that 'there has been a practice that final authority on picking the playing XI is with the captain and it will remain the same'. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen, but as is so often true in sports, how the decision to give Misbah selection and coaching duties will be viewed moving forward will depend largely on results. If the next three years see Pakistan fail to improve, no doubt the double appointment will attract criticism, but on the other side of the coin if Misbah can extract results from the team it will be, as Wasim Khan put it, 'innovative'.
And he won't have to wait long to get that period underway. Later this month, Pakistan has a three-match ODI series followed by a three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka, following which they head to Australia for three more T20I's and what will be a challenging two-Test series. For Pakistan, it signals a new era, and they will be hoping that they can rekindle the kind of success the national side enjoyed the last time Misbah-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis were together at the helm.