Pakistan Test captain Misbah determined to play until Australia tour

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Misbah-ul-Haq.

He is Pakistan’s most successful Test captain, having led his country to 20 wins, 11 draws and 11 defeats in his 42 matches in charge – a better record than the legendary Imran Khan.

But his desire to continue has been in doubt since Pakistan’s 2-0 win over England last November, with doubts over his hunger to continue compounded by a calf injury in January that flared up during the Pakistan Super League a month later.

Speaking to AFP, Misbah, who turns 42 next month, said he had now made up his mind and was determined to play on, pending form and fitness.

“I am working on my fitness,” he told AFP. “I am trying to get a contract with a county so that I can get some practice ahead of the England tour but if that doesn’t come through then I will be touring England with Pakistan ‘A’ ahead of the four Tests to get acclimatised.”

Pakistan’s second string will play four-day matches with county teams in June before the national team contests two three-day practice matches against Somerset and Sussex counties.

The first of four Tests will start at Lord’s from July 14.

Surprisingly, Misbah has not played a single Test in England during a 61-match career — and the fast paced tracks are expected to Test the reflexes of the veteran.

“I know it’s a big challenge, so I am doing the best preparations for the tour and realise the strength of the opposition,” said Misbah. “After the England tour I am planning to play until the Australia tour as there is not that much gap between the two series.

“All my plans are related to fitness and form and that’s my priority,” he added.

Pakistan will play two Tests against the West Indies in September and October followed by two Tests in New Zealand (November) and three in Australia (December-January 2017).

Earlier in the day, recently crowned World Twenty20 champions the West Indies turned down a request from Pakistan to play the ODI matches of their series in the South Asian country, rather than the UAE, due to security fears.

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Latest Wisden offers brighter outlook on the cricketing world

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Ben Stokes (c) was one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year.

The 2016 Wisden is a far tamer beast than its most recent predecessors.

Beast remains the word – how can it not as surely sport’s most comprehensive chronicle runs again to more than 1500 pages, largely in six-point to detail its statistics of this year and yesteryear?

There is always a seasoned comfort in those reams of record which embody the age-old almanac.

If you or anyone you know has ever done anything of note in professional cricket, or maybe the recreational ranks too, you or they will be in there for black-on-white posterity and for better or worse.

It is in the mere 200 or so pages that preface the smaller print, though, that Wisden sets its annual tone.

In this year’s instance, it can be no bad thing for a sport suddenly needing to come to terms with England batsman James Taylor’s career-ending heart condition that the unmistakeable yellow vibe is that much is right with the world.

The iconoclast last seen challenging the inequity of the International Cricket Council’s ‘Big Three’, or bemoaning mis-management and Ashes misery, has mellowed to the point that ‘universe boss’ Chris Gayle’s excruciating chat-up lines are perhaps this year’s most prominent gripe.

After England’s fortunes rose from the depths of early 2015 – World Cup embarrassment and all, followed by the sacking of coach Peter Moores – to a fourth successive home Ashes victory, editor Lawrence Booth brings us sunshine.

Ben Stokes, one of his Cricketers of the Year alongside fellow Ashes-winner Jonny Bairstow, is the starting point which neatly charts events bookended by two of the all-rounder’s brilliant innings.

The first, 15 months ago at Australia’s Big Bash after England had already chosen others for their World Cup misadventure, delighted the locals for many reasons; the second, Stokes’ incomparably brutal 258 against South Africa in Cape Town will be a national treasure forever.

” … the year between his two innings had been one of the most significant in the history of English cricket,” Booth writes.

There have been many more contenders, of course, but it is hard to refute the premise after the England and Wales Cricket Board acquired a new chairman, chief executive, cricket director and coach – and, for good measure, confirmed surely once and for all that a certain prodigal superstar belongs only in their past.

Wisden acknowledges the result of the new broom was not uniform success, but marginal superiority when it mattered most – over Australia – and perhaps even more important, an apparent lifting of shackles on and off the pitch.

The consensus has been that a significant role was played too by New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, another Cricketer of the Year in a list completed by his compatriot and Leading Cricketer of the Year Kane Williamson, and beaten Ashes tourist Steve Smith.

Booth adds: “… the change in mood was hard to miss: after the sobs and scowls, England were cracking a smile”.

Wisden publication dates mean a fuller story must be told, encapsulating too the failure down under in early 2015 – and from the days before Eoin Morgan’s team ripped up their limited-overs manual, England’s 2015 World Cup is referenced as “a car crash that took place in slow motion while everyone pleaded for fifth gear”.

Chronicling the decisions made by new boss Andrew Strauss, Booth tells readers: “In a delightful turn-up for the form guide, the ECB – having spent the previous year losing touch with reality – were making some smart decisions.”

Since then, the governing body has engineered a compromise restructure of the County Championship which has been perceived by many as a work still in progress with a Twenty20 ‘ Super League ‘ still the probable endgame.

Wisden’s considered verdict next year will be of significant interest, and will benefit by then from the intervening evidence gleaned from a summer-long window into the future.

In the meantime, there is plenty to divert, delight and challenge in print already.

There is the blossoming of Alastair Cook – “he was out-captaining Michael Clarke ” – appreciation of McCullum, who “deserves every cricket-lover’s thanks for treating it like a game, not a war by other means”.

Then under sub-head ‘Out of the Darkness’, comes an editor’s assessment that “cricket breathed a little more freely” after the crumbling of the cartel which rewrote the ICC’s constitution and vested worryingly high interest in only three member countries. Wisden also has some high-profile goodbyes to make this year too.

Richie Benaud, Brian Close, Frank Tyson, Bob Appleyard and many others are all given their due.

A clutch of retirements are also marked, and Paul Farbrace’s conversation with the editor about Sri Lanka great Kumar Sangakkara is charming and informative.

Elsewhere, Wisden’s annual collection of essays covers a familiar range of the topical and historic – universally well-judged, of course.

Among them, Patrick Collins’ episodic memoir of an Ashes-winning summer is a gem.

More well-being is appropriately conveyed, with just the occasional implicit objection rippling the pond, before a symmetrical and reassuring sign-off: ” … any time the Aussies arrive in England… we shall always want our tickets for the cricket”.

It is much of what happens in between which habitually, and rightly, concerns the almanac and its editor.

But after a year which has brought more light than shade for English cricket especially, Wisden as ever reflects the state of the nations with a broad optimism.

In 12 months’ time, it may again have a little more to growl about.

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#360View: Retiring Taylor a 'model pro'

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The England and Nottinghamshire star was at the peak of his powers with a bat in his hand and it’s a real shame to cricket fans all over the world that we won’t get the chance to see the 26-year-old walk to the middle again.

Having had the pleasure of working with Taylor during my time with the England Cricket team, the batsman, and superb close-fielder, is an immaculate professional and a man whose determination helped him to achieve his dream and play for England.

Once one door closes, another one opens, so the saying goes – and this will be Taylor’s approach now and hopefully he will be involved in cricket, and pursue other interests, for many, many years to come.

Best of luck for the future, James.















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