Misbah’s role, teamwork pivotal in our rise to the zenith: Asad ShafiqArchive
KARACHI: Test batsman Asad Shafiq has termed Pakistan’s rise to top in the ICC Test team rankings as a collective goal earned through dedication, sincerity and teamwork under the calm leadership of Misbah-ul-Haq.
While talking exclusively to Dawn on Wednesday, the soft-spoken Asad credited the entire squad for taking Pakistan to the top despite heavy odds with the national side not playing at home for the past seven years.
“Definitely this is one of the proudest moments of not just my career to be part of the No.1 Test side. It’s a dream come true since we have been together as a group through ups and downs in the past three years,” Asad said.
“It is just not any one individual but the entire squad that deserves to be complimented for this great accomplishment.”
But Asad singled out Misbah as the defining force of the Test side who has played a stellar role in restoring Pakistan’s image in the cricketing world with the recent Test series against England the icing on the cake.
“One can’t praise him enough for what he has done since the dark [spot-fixing] days of August 2010 when the country’s cricketing reputation was at its lowest ebb. Misbah’s presence as a leader is the best thing that happened to Pakistan cricket. The best thing about this remarkable individual is his self-assured personality and integrity,” Asad emphasised.
“The reason we are now top of the world in Test cricket is primarily because of Misbah instilling self-belief in the players he leads. He maybe pragmatic sort of a person but his involvement with the team is passionate as anyone else.
“Not only does Misbah lead by example, but also expects his players to show the same enthusiasm and passion both on and off the field. The stats say it all what we have achieved over the six years since he became Test skipper. Even at the age of 42, Misbah is one of the fittest and performing players in this Pakistan team,” he added.
Commenting on his own performance in the 2-2 drawn series, Asad rated the century in the final Test at The Oval as the best of his career and credited senior batsman Younis Khan for the turnaround.
“Coming to the last match of the series, I was feeling down after bagging a pair in the third Test. I was obviously extremely disappointed at the way I got dismissed in both innings at Edgbaston [to Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, respectively].
“Before the final Test, Younis called me and [batting coach] Grant Flower to a 30-minute session with our video analyst [Talha]. Together we analysed the way I was getting out during the series,” Asad revealed.
“Unknowingly, I was falling over at the crease when facing the bowler. Even during the opening Test at Lord’s [where he scored 73 and 49] I experienced this problem.
“But when I got out twice to inswinging deliveries at Edgbaston, Younis noticed the chink and told me to rectify by adjusting my batting stance and it paid off brilliantly. I have dedicated that 109 to the legendary Hanif Mohammad [former Pakistan captain] who passed away on day two of the final Test.”
Asad further said being promoted up the order would prove beneficial on a long-term since batting in middle order had its disadvantages.
“Generally, I didn’t feel any discomfort being asked to bat up by our head coach [Mickey Arthur]. In fact, it [promotion] would suit me better because there would be opportunities for scoring big hundreds, something I have not been able to achieve thus far,” the 30-year-old right-hander, who has nine centuries in 45 Tests with a best of 137 against New Zealand at Sharjah in 2014, hoped.
Commenting on Younis’ epic match-winning 218, Asad admitted it was a privilege for him to watch his idol produced a great innings.
“It was just awesome to see Younis bat the way he did. He was under tremendous pressure after not being able to score big runs in the previous three Tests. But he promised us he would play a special innings. Batting with him during the big [150-run] partnership gave me a lot of confidence,” Asad narrated.
“Younis looked in complete control from the moment he came in and I knew he would make England pay heavily this time. I would say this the best innings I have seen from Younis.”
On his future goals, Asad said his aim is to perform consistently and help Pakistan win.
“The coming season would be a big challenge for us. Being the top-ranked Test team means there will be added pressure on us because the expectations will be high,” he said.
“Being top means nothing unless you maintain the status and keep improving as a team. But the camaraderie within the squad is just great.
“Mickey as the head coach as already set targets to be achieved. He is a man with positivity and is straightforward. Our collective dream is to keep playing well and consistently,” Asad concluded.
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2016