Three years ago, head coach Mohsin Khan was lifted on the shoulders of the Pakistan players after whitewashing then world number one Test side England 3-0 in the UAE.
Mohsin, who played 48 Tests and 75 ODIs for Pakistan, was held aloft by his charges in recognition of the out-of-the-box coaching style that delivered the convincing victory.
Call it love or adulation, the celebrations justly gave full credit to Mohsin’s influence behind the scenes.
Fast forward to winter 2015 and Pakistan have beaten England once again, this time with a 2-0 scoreline.
This latest Test series was nowhere near as convincing for Pakistan as back in 2012; in the first Test in Abu Dhabi, Alastair Cook’s side were only denied victory by fading light and in Dubai they were six overs away from salvaging a draw that would have lead to a decisive third and final Test in Sharjah.
Mohsin believes that both sides competing in 2015 do not compare to that of the respective Pakistan and England squads of 2012.
That England team consisted of a formidable middle-order that included the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan and a wicketkeeper capable of match-winning innings with the bat in Matt Prior.
England’s spin attack was also led by the best off-spinner at the time Graeme Swann and cunning left-armer Monty Panesar. Compared to the inexperience of Moeen Ali, Samit Patel and Adil Rashid, the difference is stark.
“I won’t compliment myself for the whitewash against England but in all honesty there is no match of this current side with that of 2012,” Mohsin tells Sport360. “The side led by Andrew Strauss was far more superior than this side as England had a top batting and bowling lineup at the time.
“You could pick out anyone in the playing XI of England three years back and everyone was a match-winner in their own right, such was the class of that side. We must not forget that the side we beat was the number one team in the world coming into the series and so it wasn’t an easy achievement. All I did make sure that my team gelled well and played for each other.
“There is no steel or grit in the current England batting lineup apart from Cook and Joe Root. Only they looked ready to mount a challenge against Pakistan while all others look ordinary. Yet we were afraid of England and prepared such slow tracks.”
It was a different case back in 2012, when Mohsin asked for quicker pitches with more carry, despite it seemingly playing to the touring side’s strengths.
“I remember that I asked the head pitch curator in Dubai to make a pitch which would have bounce for the bowlers and he was surprised that I was asking for such a pitch,” Mohsin recalls. “He asked me why I wanted such pitch despite knowing that it could support England and I told him that the bounce would help even my spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman.
“I told Misbah that we’d go with such a pitch and that the team must play bold cricket. There was chest-height carry for the pacers and the England team director at that time Andy Flower complimented us for the sporting pitches. It was all about being positive and not worrying about the pitches. But the pitches I’ve seen in this series were so poor that it looked Pakistan were afraid to lose and prepared slow batting tracks with hardly any bounce.”
Mohsin, 60, was brought in as the interim head coach after Waqar Younis had resigned from the post and he went onto enjoy a successful stint at the helm with Test series wins over Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and England.
And having formed a formidable team with captain Misbah-ul-Haq in 2012, Mohsin reserved special praise for the Pakistan skipper’s attacking mentality that followed the 2015 first Test.
“Misbah realised that he couldn’t be defensive or else England would run over. His attacking captaincy in the second and third Tests was brilliant and the players responded to his call. It was a superb team effort from Pakistan in Dubai and Sharjah with likes of Misbah, Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik chipping in with runs.
“Even in the bowling department, it was about the team effort as Yasir Shah was well complemented by Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan and Zulfiqar Babar.”
Mohsin enjoyed a fatherly relationship with his team, with the joyous scenes that followed the third Test in 2012 testament to this. However, the critics were always on his trail, lamenting him for not being a qualified coach and someone who could not move around well.
But Mohsin and his team continued producing results until the PCB sanctioned the change it wanted, bringing in a more qualified coach in Dav Whatmore after Pakistan lost the ODI series to England shortly after their Test series triumph.
“I won’t go back to what happened as the people in Pakistan know how things happened,” Mohsin says. “It’s a chapter I don’t want to remember but all I can say is that England will certainly pose a threat to Pakistan in ODIs and T20Is. Pakistan must play positive and attacking cricket if they want to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.”
Pakistan coach Waqar will certainly be wary of a subsequent ODI series defeat, considering how quickly Mohsin was cast aside.
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