Misbah-ul-Haq hopes his gradual phasing out of international cricket will coincide with the ushering in of a new era for Pakistan, in which a new leader will receive continued support as he finds his feet. Misbah, who will retire from ODI cricket after the World Cup, has urged his country's board to start moving on quickly.
"I've announced my retirement from ODIs and I'm definitely going to play Test cricket for year. Then, let's see. I am enjoying my cricket at the moment," Misbah told ESPNcricinfo. "But it's the time for Pakistan to look forward. If you are going to give captaincy to a youngster, he needs some time to develop a team and develop himself as a captain. I would really appreciate it if the board shows confidence in someone for a long time. That can build stability in your team. It's time to change and put some responsibility on the shoulders of these youngsters."
Although Misbah has been mentoring players and has made a recommendation on his successor to the board, he would not be drawn into revealing who that is. Not even Wasim Akram could guess who may be next in line to lead. "I've been thinking about it a lot. If Misbah retires, who will be the captain?"Akram asked at a media opportunity in Brisbane before Pakistan's match against Zimbabwe. "If I have to pick anyone, I can't. It will be a difficult decision by the PCB but you have to move on. They've got to find a captain out of the players we have. We don't believe in homework in our part of the world - that if we want to make this guy captain, he should be the vice-captain, that never happens."
Akram mentioned names like Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal, neither of whom had made a big enough impact on the tournament at time. "They have to be consistent. I am not talking about just getting runs but to look the part, and so far they haven't looked the part on Australian wickets," he said. Since then, Shehzad has gone on to score 93 against UAE but Pakistan need to do more than that to prove their batting woes have not merely been papered over.
Misbah has borne the brunt of the criticism, despite often being the only rock in an eroded line-up, but has learnt to take it on the chin. "You don't play the game because you want appreciation from people or you want somebody to speak highly [of you]. It's the passion, you love the game," he said. "You should know in yourself what you are doing right and wrong, and if you are really satisfied you are on the right path, you don't have to listen to the people."
As one of only three players over 40 in the tournament, with 13 years of international experience to his name, Misbah has learnt to operate despite the noise but admitted not all of his players can look the other way. Especially when the harsh words are being delivered from former players at home. "Some guys are new at this level and whoever talks like that about anybody personally, may make remarks that can sometimes hurt your family and you get calls and messages from them. The guys who have played cricket before should know about this and don't just criticise anybody personally. If there is a poor performance, you should criticise but if you are targeting anybody personally, it could be painful for any person and that can sometimes play on their minds."
Misbah did not mention whether Shoaib Akhtar's accusations that he was "cowardly" and "selfish" were weighing on him, but subtly let slip that he is doing all he can for the team, and will continue to. "There is no need to react to that. I am focusing on what we are doing here. It's really important for us that we stay calm and focus. Whatever is happening in media, just leave it behind," Misbah said. "Pakistan needs us here." And they need Misbah more than anyone else.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
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