Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
SA face spin trial: Misbah
Cape Town – Pakistan will have had seven different captains in eight series against South Africa by the time these countries meet in the first Test in neutral United Arab Emirates on November 12.
This follows recent confirmation that veteran Misbah-ul-Haq will lead the strife-torn Pakistanis in the two-Test assignment in Dubai and then Abu Dhabi.
It will be their first engagement since the stormy visit to England, when then-captain Salman Butt and pacemen Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were suspended by the International Cricket Council over their alleged involvement in spot-fixing.
In truth, ever-enigmatic Pakistan have struggled for general stability at international level for several years, as evidenced by the captaincy statistics against the Proteas.
There have been seven series since the nations first met in the post-isolation era in 1994/95 (in South Africa), when the late Hansie Cronje – also no stranger to match-fixing issues – led the hosts and Salim Malik was his counterpart.
Cronje retained the reins for two further series against Pakistan, up to 1997/98, before Shaun Pollock took over for the 2002/03 meeting and then Graeme Smith has led in a further three – the UAE mission shortly will be his fourth in succession against these foes.
In contrast to South Africa’s trio, Pakistan have chopped and changed captaincy quite furiously: only once have they boasted one leader in successive series against the Proteas, and that was when Inzamam-ul-Haq carried the burden in 2003/04 and 2006/07 – other leaders since Salim Malik have been Saeed Anwar, Rashid Latif, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Malik.
Now Misbah, who is 36 and has only ever played 19 Tests – just two of them against South Africa, in the last series which the Proteas won 1-0 away in 2007/08 – is the relatively surprise new appointee.
Meanwhile Cricinfo reported on Tuesday that the right-handed batsman has hit back at doubters.
“I know the task assigned to me is not easy,” he was quoted as saying. “However, underestimating me as a captain and batsman is not fair as one learns with time and improves.”
He also tried to allay fears about the general reliability of Pakistan’s batting: “(It) appeared to be very difficult in England; the batsmen at my disposal are much better than their statistics in England suggest.
“The conditions in the UAE will be more akin to what Pakistani batsmen are used to seeing and I am confident the lineup will deliver against South Africa.”
Misbah also said that with their pace attack now stripped of two top performers, his team would target the Proteas with the spin wiles of Saeed Ajmal, Danish Kaneria and Abdur Rehman.
“Our strength (in spin) could be the key in the UAE … the variety is there. There should be turn and bounce on offer.”