Veteran skipper Misbah-ul-Haq has anointed his and legendary batsman Younis Khan’s successors in the Pakistan Test team. Reminiscing the scenario when he and fellow stalwart Khan raised their game to fill the void created by Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf in the latter half of the 2000s decade, the 42-year-old urged Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to replicate the same in the near future.
In his column for cricket.com.au, Misbah wrote, “The onus is now on the likes of Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed to step up and fill the void. When two Pakistan greats Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf left the scene, Younis and I tried to fill that gap. Azhar and Asad have developed in the meantime and now they are at a stage to replace us.”
“We need Azhar and Asad to now take ownership of the Test side, and with players like Babar Azam, Umar Amin, Mohammad Rizwan, Ahmed Shehzad, Usman Salahuddin, Fawad Alam among others in the ranks I am hopeful that Pakistan will remain in good shape. Every team goes though transition periods and Pakistan is no different.”
Misbah and Younis are set to bid adieu to the international stage at the end of the ongoing 3-match series against West Indies. The duo have been instrumental in shaping Pakistan’s Test fortunes during the course of the last few years.
The heart of the matter
While Inzamam retired in 2007, Yousuf‘s final Test appearance came in the infamous Lord’s encounter in 2010. With Pakistan reeling from the spot-fixing scandal at the start of the 2010s, Misbah and Younis went on to provide stability to the side. Among their many highlights include the team’s ascent to the top of the Test rankings between August and October 2016.
When the iconic duo ride into the sunset, the onus will be on Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to rise to the occasion. The former has already established himself as one of the best top-order batsmen in the present-day game even as the latter’s penchant for playing memorable knocks has come to the side’s rescue in recent times.
The first of the three Test matches between West Indies and Pakistan is already underway in Jamaica. After the culmination of the series on May 14, Pakistan’s next Test assignment (as per the Future Tours Program) will be the 2-match affair in Bangladesh during July.
Having played 57 and 53 Tests respectively, Azhar and Asad are at the ideal stages of their careers to take up the senior mantle from Misbah and Younis. However, the retiring legends have set the bar high for the duo to follow in their footsteps. As a result, the two right-handers need to lift their game when the time comes.