When I was given the captaincy in 2010 the Pakistan team was at its lowest ebb. We had lost some established players and the team was in the news for the wrong reason. My aim and goal was to make us a competitive Test team and take us to the upper tier of the ICC Rankings.
Five years on and today we are ranked second in the world.
There is no better feeling and I am really happy to know that we have covered such a long distance quite successfully. I am even happier that we have performed as a team and each player performed according to his role.
Not only are we second in the rankings we have also produced some great players in the last five years which vindicates that the team is moving in the right direction.
The most satisfying part though is that we have reached this level after beating the best teams in the world. Both Australia and England are challenging teams and winning against them is never easy even if you are playing in the home conditions.
The reason behind our success is we have an established set of players. Our batting line-up in the last five years has remained more-or-less the same. Nearly all the batsmen are averaging 40-plus, some even 50-plus.
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In the bowling department the void left by Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman was quickly filled by Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar whereas the fast bowlers – Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali and Imran Khan – also produced match-winning performances.
This team has the ability to withstand pressure and produce results in any given situation.
For example, in Sharjah we were under enormous pressure when England had taken a first-innings lead of 72 runs. The game was slipping from our grasp. It is never easy when you are 70-odd runs in the arrears.
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That we came out of the situation to win the match, a huge credit should go to the innings played by Mohammad Hafeez. The 100-run opening stand he had with Azhar Ali in our second innings was the turning point of the game, and it was due to that partnership that we thought about setting a target near to 300 otherwise at one stage even a 200-run target was looking difficult.
Hafeez salutes his match-turning century in Sharjah // Getty
Our batting lately has been pretty impressive. The 29 centuries scored by our batsmen in the past year is testament to our success. A huge credit here goes to the batting coach Grant Flower who has been working really hard with the players.
He is building a good chemistry with our batsmen which is yielding positive results. Even when he was with Zimbabwe he had produced some good results. Similarly, the combination of Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed has been very helpful to our bowlers. It is good to have some great coaches in the dressing room who understand the psyche of the players.
A rematch with England on their turf
Our batting strategy has come under scrutiny after the series against England. We were very careful while facing the fast bowlers and planned to collect most of the runs from the spinners. This has led some experts to believe that we will fail when we tour England next year.
We play by keeping the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition in mind. Our strategy against England was to nullify their strength, which was fast bowling, and exploit their weakness, which was spin bowling.
We knew that if they are playing with two or three spinners they will be bowling at some stage therefore we planned to score most of the runs against them.
This strategy obviously will not work in England and we will have to score runs against fast bowlers there. The first 20 and 25 overs in England are difficult. If you negotiate the new ball then you can look to score runs even off fast bowlers because the wickets there are true and the ball comes on to the bat nicely, unlike the UAE where the pitches are sluggish which restricts batsmen’s strokes.
Anderson generated 'unprecedented' reverse swing says Misbah // Getty
England batsmen are good players of pace but even they struggled to score runs off the pacers on the slow wickets of the UAE.
Also, we shouldn’t forget that James Anderson and Stuart Broad were at their best throughout the series. The amount of reverse swing they were generating was unprecedented for us.
In the recent times we have also played against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand but none of the bowlers from those teams managed as much reverse swing as did Anderson and Broad.
It is because England were looking after the ball in a very professional way. As soon as the ball lost its shine they were bowling cross seam to make it rough. Also their throws were reaching the stumps on the bounce. They were better than us when it came to looking after the ball.
We need to learn from them as reverse swing will have a crucial role when Pakistan tour England.
My playing future
I have been asked many times if I will be part of that tour. At this moment I am in a bit of a conundrum. I haven’t decided yet if I will be touring England.But what I can tell you is that I am looking to play some county cricket at the start of the next summer. I am eying a contract with some team in a bid to get match practice in the English conditions.
Misbah takes a run in Sharjah - it may not be his last Test // Getty
We are still eight months away from that tour and with no Test cricket until then it will be difficult for me to stay in rhythm. At this stage of my career I simply cannot afford a four or five month gap before touring England. Therefore I’ll have to keep playing, no matter which format it is.
I will be playing domestic cricket, both first-class and limited overs, in the coming months in Pakistan and then there will be some T20 cricket with the Pakistan Super League.
If I can get to play first-class cricket in England in May and June then I can think of captaining Pakistan on that tour otherwise it will be a huge question mark for me.
My thoughts on day-night Tests
Day-night Test cricket is a good idea but I don’t see it having a future with any ball other than white.
We played a domestic tournament in Karachi with the orange ball and it was a horrible experience for the fielders. Some catches even fell on the heads of the fielders as they just couldn’t see it.
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Maybe as a batsman you don’t find it that difficult due to the sightscreens but for fielders it was really hard to spot the ball with a black sky behind. In the twilight it gets difficult for batsmen as well.
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In my opinion if there is day-night Test cricket in the future it will be possible only with the white ball.
Either you manufacture the ball which lasts 80 overs or use two balls, I can see it happening only with the white ball.
But then lot of things will need to be changed. With white ball the kits cannot be of the same colour so we will have to change the color of kits as well.
Changes needed for the Decision Review System
First of all, I think the DRS tools need to be uniform in every series. The ball-tracking, the hot-spot, the snicko etc, they all should be part of the system if you are using it. I don’t think it is right to have only one or two of these tools if you are using the DRS.
Secondly, we need to do away with the umpire’s call. The benefit of doubt goes to the umpires and you lose the review as well.
They need to set certain parameters and then make judgments according to it. In the case of LBW decisions, if more than 30 per cent of the ball is hitting the stumps it should be out, otherwise not out. I think 30-70 will be a fair call.
For example, if there is an LBW appeal against the batsman who has been given not out by the on-field umpire and the ball-tracking shows more than 30% of the ball is hitting the stumps then the batsman should be given out.
Similarly, if the batsman reviews after being given out and the ball-tracking shows more than 70% of the ball was missing the stumps then the decision should be not out.