Arresting Pakistan's Test decline is Misbah-ul-Haq's biggest challenge as head coach

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A new innings in Pakistan cricket for Misbah.

It came as no surprise when Misbah-ul-Haq was declared as the new head coach of Pakistan on Thursday with the former skipper handed a three-year contract on his appointment.

Misbah was widely seen as the clear favourite ever since he formally applied for the job but it is the move to also hand him chief-selector duties simultaneously that shows the vast amount of faith the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have placed on his appointment.

The 45-year-old has no prior coaching experience as such but his calming presence might just be what Pakistan cricket needs at the moment. Nine years ago, the Pakistan captaincy was thrust upon Misbah at one of the lowest points in the cricketing nation’s history.

Despite having to take over a fractured dressing room in the aftermath of the 2010 spot-fixing scandal in England, Misbah won many admirers with his stoic leadership in what ultimately turned out to be a near seven-year tenure.

His limited-overs captaincy did invite its fair share of criticism but Misbah was responsible for turning around the dwindling fortunes of the Test side by turning the team’s adopted home in the UAE into a fortress. The crowning achievement of his captaincy came in 2016 when Pakistan ascended to the top of the ICC Test rankings for the first time since 1988.

Since then, Pakistan have plummeted to seventh position in the Test rankings with the team’s proud record in the UAE punctured as well with recent series defeats against Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Rebuilding the foundations of the Test squad will be Misbah’s most important mandate in his latest role with Pakistan cricket even as the PCB attempts to make sweeping changes to the domestic first-class set up.

Under previous coach Mickey Arthur, Pakistan did find success in limited-overs cricket with their 2017 Champions Trophy triumph and ascend to No1 in the T20I rankings but their performances in the five-day format suffered.

Returning Pakistan to the top in Test cricket is a huge challenge given the team’s current struggles but Misbah may be the man to do just that given time. A three-year contract is a big commitment from the PCB and the former batsman is a man who will instantly command the respect of all players.

It isn’t exactly crisis hour for Pakistan as it was in 2010 but the challenge ahead is equally daunting for their greatest-ever Test captain.

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