Misbah-ul-Haq says Pakistan are well-placed for the World T20, and speaks about the positive influence of some Australians on his PSL-winning Islamabad side
Although Pakistan lost the opening match against India in the Asia Cup, they shouldn’t lose hope. That their bowlers made 83 look difficult against a strong batting team like India, is something that will encourage them in the next games.
After this bowling performance I think the pressure on our batsmen will be less. The batsmen need to understand that the pitches in the Asia Cup are different from the Pakistan Super League and even if they score 130 or 140 their bowlers can defend it.
I still feel that Pakistan can make the final of the Asia Cup, and will do well in the World Twenty20 as well.
All the Asian teams appear to be in good shape in the WT20, especially India, because they can give a tough time to any team in the subcontinent. They have a brilliant batting line-up and spin-bowling attack, and that’s why I feel they are the team we need to look to.
But then it is T20 cricket and any team can upset any other on the given day. You can’t predict much in this format and that is not simply a diplomatic statement.
Pakistan Super League: A dream come true
I have been playing professional cricket for nearly 15 years and captained Pakistan for five of them but what I experienced last week while playing for Islamabad United in Dubai was something new.
To win the Pakistan Super League was a moment of intense pleasure for me. Our team batted so well in the last few matches that I wasn’t even required as a batsman, yet I got the chance to hit the winning runs of the PSL’s inaugural edition. It is a matter of huge pride for me and I am thankful to Allah for giving me this honour.
I can safely say the PSL was better followed than many international matches we have played in the UAE. I always knew whenever it would happen it would be a massive hit because I have seen large turnouts in the domestic T20s we have played in Faisalabad and Rawalpindi.
Most of the Pakistanis who are based in Dubai belong to the working class and to see them in the stadium on the weekday was remarkable. If this league happens in Pakistan you can’t imagine how successful it will be.
Our journey towards victory was not smooth. We started off poorly and at one stage we were looking like being eliminated even before the play-offs. The injuries to players weren’t helping our cause either.
In tournaments like this sometimes you need time to understand the foreign players who are playing in unfamiliar conditions therefore we needed time to gel. We started off poorly, losing four out of the first six games, but we did not panic. As soon as we understood each other and got the combination right the same team won five matches in a row and lifted the trophy.
People say T20 is young man's game but I think experience is as necessary as any other format. If you don’t have experience it becomes difficult for the team to get out of the pressure situations. You have to make quick decisions and that you do from the past experiences.
The PSL and the Big Bash League in Australia last month will vindicate this notion. The average age of both the winning teams – Sydney Thunder and Islamabad United – was nearly 33 years and that proves experience is the key even in 20-over cricket.
Having world-beaters in your team also helps. The team director Wasim Akram and the coach Dean Jones both have won World Cups and their presence in the team made a huge impact.
We were also lucky to have three Australians – Shane Watson and Brad Haddin as players and Jones as coach – in our dressing room. All of them have won World Cups therefore their winning experience was a huge influence on our team.
Haddin was magnificent in the playoffs. Both Jones and Watson knew him well and they wanted him to bat up the order when the ball is new and comes onto the bat nicely as he is more effective against the new ball. He scored three fifties in four games, but he didn’t just perform with the bat - his on-field presence was equally important as he helped us in making bowling changes and setting fields.
He always talked about the ways of winning primarily because he had been part of Australia’s victories on many occasions. Being positive in difficult moments is the best thing about the Aussies. It instilled the confidence in the other players as well.
Confidence is what really matters to win the big games. Even in the final I felt that the moral of our team was a little down after Quetta had posted 174. It could have happened to any team in a high-octane game after seeing a total of 150-plus on the board. I sensed there was a feeling in the team that it would be difficult for us to chase the target.
During the innings break I spoke with the team and shared my honest feelings. I told them that even though 174 is a daunting task, the pitch we have in this match is different from the previous ones. It is the best strip we have had in the PSL. The bounce and pace is excellent and the boundaries are just 65 meters long. We have lots of depth in our batting and by depth I mean decent batsmen like Imran Khalid and Mohammad Sami coming at numbers eight and nine. We have got some quality players. We have to score a boundary an over. We knew that Quetta were mostly relying on spinners but the wicket in the final had hardly anything for the slow bowlers. I told the team we were in the hunt.
I told them to believe that we can win from any situation and that was mentioned in my speech, and also by Samuel Badree, Haddin and Deano so many times. We were asked to fight until the end.
Similarly, before the eliminator, Badree and Andre Russell delivered a motivational presentation where they showed us a video of a rugby player. The video was about not losing hope – even if the start is not good we can finish it well. It became a great motivation factor for all the players and left a huge impact on us. Players got mentally strengthened. It was a good learning curve.
Also I think we had the best owners. They never interfered in the cricketing matters. They supported us even when we were losing. They did not interfere in the team selections even when the results were not coming our way. The captain and the coaches were given full authority to make the decisions. They never asked us why this and that player is not playing. That was a big encouraging sign. Sometimes it doesn't happen like this as the people who have invested money want positive results due to commercial interests. But Islamabad’s owners left it to the professionals.
We had many get-togethers with the owners and were gelled as a family. A day before the final we had a get together at a yacht in Dubai Marina. Everyone really enjoyed it as people must have seen it through a video from that day where Mohammad Irfan making use of his long arm was seen catching a flying seagull. It was fun and such gatherings help you to gel and live as a family. We had food and pictures together. It helped us in building harmony.
Islamabad United is an amazing team with amazing players. I look forward to playing for them the next year as well. If fitness permits I would love to lead this team again in 2017.
Islamabad’s success can be gauged from the fact that four players from this team that will be playing in the World T20.
The team Pakistan has selected for the Asia Cup and World T20 has in-form players and I feel it has become even better after a few late changes. The players will enter these tournaments on the back of the PSL experience which will surely help them. You will soon see the PSL’s positive effects.