Misbah-ul-Haq has been handed unprecedented influence over Pakistan cricket, after the PCB confirmed his appointment as coach of the national side, as well as – uniquely – chief selector. Pakistan’s most successful Test captain will be reunited with Waqar Younis, who has been named bowling coach. Waqar was head coach twice during Misbah’s near seven-year tenure as captain, the pair working well together in registering some of Pakistan’s finest successes in the Misbah era. Both have been given three-year contracts.
Speculation had been rife about Misbah being appointed for a while now – though both positions were advertised publicly, the PCB actively chased Misbah. He delayed applying formally for the position and the reason, ESPNcricinfo understands, is because of yet another role he is due to take up: that of the PSL side Islamabad United head coach. Eventually Misbah applied hours before the deadline and was interviewed, beating Mohsin Khan and Dean Jones, who also applied. From being a shock candidate to take the captaincy less than a decade ago, Misbah is now, arguably, the most powerful man in Pakistan cricket.
Applications were not especially abundant. Waqar was the only one who turned up for the interview after another shortlisted candidate Mohammad Akram withdrew at the last minute. This is Waqar’s fifth term with Pakistan in a coaching capacity, having served as bowling coach of the Pakistan side in 2006-07, bowling and fielding coach briefly in 2009-10, head coach in 2010-11 and again from 2014 to 2016. The end, when it has come, has rarely been a pleasant one and in 2016 he resigned three months before his contract was to end, after a disastrous World T20. He will be replacing Azhar Mahmood, who was released alongside Mickey Arthur, the previous head coach.
If Misbah’s multiple roles weren’t already a talking point, he was also part of the very committee that reviewed Arthur’s tenure after the World Cup and then decided to not renew his contract – in effect, one of the men responsible for the decision to release Arthur has now succeeded him.
The PCB had used a five-member panel with two independent former cricketers – Intikhab Alam and Bazid Khan – governing board member Asad Ali Khan, Wasim Khan (chief executive, PCB) and Zakir Khan (director – international cricket) for the recruitment process.
The board had also sought candidates for the batting coach role but didn’t shortlist the only applicants – Mohammad Wasim and Faisal Iqbal. Both were ignored and with Misbah at the helm, the PCB has decided to call in an assistant coach from the NCA as support staff.
Of Misbah’s numerous roles, his position as head coach of a PSL franchise and the national team raises questions of a potential conflict of interest – much in the way it had with his predecessor. Arthur was also coach of Karachi Kings during his time as Pakistan coach. The matter was taken up by Ehsan Mani after becoming chairman PCB and he promised to form a policy on dual roles that caused potential conflicts of interest.
Before becoming chairman Mani had robustly questioned the situation of national coaches working with domestic teams. But with Misbah now holding three roles, a definitive position on the issue may not be forthcoming. Last year under Mani, the PCB did remove chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq from the PSL player draft committee because of a potential conflict of interest since he was involved with a talent-hunt programme run by one of the tournament’s franchises, Lahore Qalandars. Tauseef Ahmed, part of the national selection committee while also serving as Islamabad United’s spin coach, was also left out of the PSL draft committee.
The first assignment of the Misbah-Waqar combination will be the upcoming three-ODI and three-T20I home series against Sri Lanka, which will be played from September 27 to October 9. Their first series in the World Test Championship will be in Australia, where Pakistan will play in Brisbane (November 21-25), followed by a day/night Test in Adelaide (November 29 – December 3).