ISLAMABAD   -   Pakistan cricket team’s new defensive-minded head coach-cum-chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq has once again proved that he just doesn’t believe in taking bold steps, as despite his all tall claims about playing aggressive cricket, he once again took defensive approach during the recently-concluded ODI series against Sri Lanka.

It was expected that Misbah, who lived with the tag of defensive approach throughout his international career as Pakistan skipper, will change his mentality and start his coaching career on a very positive and bold note, but the cat came out of the bag when the Sri Lanka Cricket Board (SCB) announced their squad for three ODIs and as many T20Is in Pakistan.

As the Sri Lankan squad was mainly based on unknown faces and all the mega stars were not part of the visiting side due to security concerns, it was ideal time for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and especially for Misbah to give some chances to young players without worrying about the outcome. With such opportunity to unleash talent, Misbah could prove his stance and claim of playing aggressive cricket. But this was not the case, as same old players were named for the training camp.

Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad were named in the probable list for the ODIs without their significant performances. Then they were dropped all of a sudden and Hussnain, Usman Shinwari, Iftikhar Ahmed and Muhammad Rizwan were recalled for reasons and performances best known to Misbah and the PCB.

Ever since PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani and CEO Wasim Gulzar Khan have taken over the reins of the cricket board, they have just made tall claims one after another, but they have been super flops in reality. The skilled coaches along with other staff were fired without reasonable grounds, while dubious, unskilled and inexperienced coaches and other staff were hired.

Misbah enjoyed full liberty and managed to select his blue-eyed regional and departmental players from SSGC, but no one from PCB management ever bothered to seek explanation from him. Top class players were sent home and overlooked for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, while aged and unfit players were given favours. Same thing was happened during appointments of the coaching staff. Master coaches were hired on Rs500,000 per month salaries, while Level-III coaches and supporting staff members were appointed on Rs 400,000 and Rs 250,000 per month salaries just to shower benefits on Misbah’s near and dear ones.

After huge disappointment from the selection of players for Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, it was expected that the PCB Chairman or CEO, who had promised to root out nepotism culture from the governing body and provide opportunities for genuine talent, will wake up and ensure merit during the selection of the national team for Sri Lanka series, but Misbah played safe and relied on selecting a full-fledge side. Although it will provide short-term joy to Misbah and the PCB yet the game will badly suffer in the long run. Misbah had tasted success as a captain, but all are aware of its cost. Now he is all set to turn the national team into a bunch of defensive-minded individuals.

For the Sri Lanka tour, the situation was ideal to give rest to some used bullets like Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Muhammad Aamir and Wahab Riaz. There was absolutely no need of inviting Iftikhar and Rizwan, rather Misbah should have focused on opening and middle order areas. The national team also suffered due to lack of power-hitters in the later order and the team will continue to suffer until these grey areas are not addressed.

It was ideal time to hand over national caps to some emerging players like Musa Khan, Muhammad Hussnain, Rohail Nazir and all-rounder Ali Imran, who, if provided timely chances, could prove to be future stars for the country. But Misbah and the PCB kept on sleeping and following orthodox approach, which had badly affected the national team’s performances over the years.

It was hoped that after the ODI series selection, Misbah will give rest to old players and bring forward some emerging players, but he was not in a mood to address the long-standing issues and provide opportunities to young talent. He also doesn’t have any justification for selecting out-of-form Faheem Ashraf.

Misbah’s real test will start with the beginning of the Australian series, when no lame excuse will be acceptable. Misbah has to deliver at any cost and justify his hefty monthly perks and privileges. Pakistan cricket is at stake and there is no hope for youngsters until and unless Prime Minister Imran Khan intervenes and plays his role for providing reasonable chances to young players, otherwise, same old people will rule the game and genuine talent will continue to suffer.