Their remarkable fourth-innings effort in the first Test against Australia at the Gabba notwithstanding, Pakistan are still on a four-match losing streak. The opening day of the Boxing Day Test at the iconic MCG saw them taper off to 142/4 on a fairly batting-friendly surface. Naturally, all fingers have been pointed towards their misfiring middle-order veterans in skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.
At the end of day press conference, Pakistan’s head coach Mickey Arthur found himself facing questions on the experienced duo’s future whilst pondering the team’s composition when they eventually decide to call it quits.
Arthur believed, “Only they would know (the right time to retire). But, we back them massively in the dressing room. That's all I can say. Ultimately, they will decide when they think the time is right. But within our dressing room, they are held in such high esteem and we back them every time they go out and play. There's no doubt in our dressing room about Younis and Misbah.”
He elaborated, “One's (Misbah) been an inspirational leader for the last six years and the other guy (Younis) is closing in on 10,000 Test runs. They've earned the right in a massive way. And again the esteem they are held in within the dressing room is second to none.”
While Misbah had earlier indicated that he was contemplating on hanging his boots at the end of the Australian tour. He is currently 42 and the hand-eye coordination has begun to deteriorate rapidly. His previous seven Test innings have yielded just 121 runs.
On the other hand, Younis Khan turned 39 last month and has over 16 years of international experience. He is Pakistan’s all-time highest Test run-scorer as well as the leading century-maker. Including his 21 in the first innings of the Melbourne Test, the stalwart needs only 235 runs to scale the 10,000-run mark and join an exclusive club of batting greats.
However, his recent form has been quite woeful (by his standards) with just 153 runs from his last nine innings.
When the two ageing icons do choose to retire, Pakistan would want the likes of Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to rise to the occasion. While they have indeed been performing admirably, replacing experienced batsmen might demand a greater sense of reliability.
Arthur felt, “In an ideal world, you will (want a smooth change of guard). But, ultimately that decision rests with them. They've earned the right – so if they want to continue, fantastic, because that's what we want as a cricket team. If they don't, we feel we are starting to make enough ground in terms of bringing other players through.
“I want to reiterate there's no doubt surrounding those two whatsoever. They are still model professionals and they train, they are fit, they practice and they are inspirational around the dressing room. The longer they can be around that dressing room the better it is for the Sami Aslams, the Babar Azams, the Azhar Alis, the Sharjeels, the young guys who are with us.”