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By Sohail Ali

LAHORE, Feb 09 (APP): Pakistan cricket team head coach Misbah-ul-Haq on Tuesday termed his teams test whitewash against South Africa “significant “ to help boost its confidence to strive for excellence in its coming assignments.

Talking to the media virtually here on Tuesday, Misbah said: “It was a very important series for Pakistan after we lost series against New Zealand. The confidence of the national team was low, it was very important to perform in the series to regain its lost confidence and to perform to a higher level against a top class team which is visiting Pakistan after a long time.

“And up to the mark performance in this series was vital . Overall the weakness we had in New Zealand, the questions that were there, and in the series against South Africa our performance was better.

And that is why we have won the series 2-0. The result was very satisfying for the team as well as players’ confidence. It was very important, for the coaching staff as well , it was important for Pakistan as a whole,” he added.

He said a victory always have a positive impact on team and most importantly on the mind set of players and create a will to show consistency.

The former Pakistan cricket captain also pointed out that previously in England and New Zealand, they were struggling to close out games after finding themselves in positions of strength. For instance, in the Old Trafford Test in England, Pakistan had run through the cream of the home side’s batting order before Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes guided the hosts to a hard-fought win. In New Zealand too Pakistan missed out crucial chances.

“We were very hopeful in England, but unfortunately we didn’t win that Test match (Old Trafford). Previously, the finishing touches weren’t happening. In New Zealand also crucial chances were dropped. We tried to rectify here.

The way Faheem is performing, it is great for the balance of the team. There are certain departments where we still need to improve. But looking at the confidence of the team, hopefully, we are in a better position. Now the focus is on the T20I series against South Africa. It is important… with the T20 WC coming up that we focus on this series.”

Misbah and the rest of the coaching staff came under scrutiny after Pakistan slipped to defeats across formats in New Zealand. The former Pakistan captain, however, said that there should be continuity and it is important to look at the side’s performance from a long term perspective.

“There should be continuity. It isn’t like you would win every series, there would be ups and downs, one should look at it in the longer run, the combinations, the players, whether they are going on the right side, is there development, results, it would take a bit of time. Yes, changes have to be done but the changes need to be done for the sake of betterment.”

The head coach said that after trouncing South Africa 2-0 in the series, the green shirts’ morale is high.

He said the team will attempt to continue their winning ways in the T20s as well.
“This is not a very experienced side but they have a lot of potential. They will take advantage of opportunities.

I can’t even say this is an entirely inexperienced side because it has some players that have been consistently playing for the team,” he added.

Misbah said he had backed Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Rizwan because he knew they were talented cricketers. “Both are performing continuously for Pakistan. We needed a bowling all-rounder at the seventh position and Faheem Ashraf has filled that for us,” he added. He praised Player of the Series Mohammad Rizwan, adding that the wicketkeeper was a hard worker who wanted to avail opportunities.

He admitted that the national team’s openers were out-of-form, adding that they needed confidence. “We will work on their mistakes, I will be present in the National High Performance Centre and we will work on them [openers] for a month-and-a-half.”

Misbah said that Pakistan cannot afford to waste its openers, adding that they should not be dropped after only one or two series.

“We will work on Abid Ali, Shan Masood, Imran Butt and Abdullah Shafique because only they are the ones who are performing at the moment [among openers in the domestic circuit],” he said.