Misbah talking exclusively to cricket.com.au about how he wants his team to go about their business and in particular how to get the main man Steve Smith out.
Pakistan’s record Down Under for an established cricketing nation is very poor indeed. They have had some legendary names in their ranks yet have been so substandard in Australia. They have had four consecutive whitewashes in Australia and will be looking to avoid a fifth one.
Pakistan’s current squad is full of young and inexperienced players as 3 of the current members - Shaheen Shah Afridi, Musa Khan and Naseem Shah - weren’t even born when Pakistan last won a test in 1995. On the contrary their star batsman - Babar Azam - was just 14 months old.
However, head coach cum chief Selector Misbah ul Haq stated that past won’t have any bearing when Pakistan take the field in the first test at Gabba, starting November 21st.
"Our previous record in Australia won't put us under pressure," Misbah told cricket.com.au.
"If anything, it'll be an opportunity and motivation to win because whatever we couldn't achieve in the past, we can do now.”
The young players are hungry and they know this is the tour to make their names.
"It's a young and hungry team and it means business. This team wants to take the challenge. We want to give our best, play good cricket and think about winning.
Former captain talked about the previous tour where they came all so close to winning the first test in Brisbane.
"We have some positives to take from the last tour, too. We came close winning the Brisbane Test (in 2016) but dropped catches and the last-wicket partnership in the first innings became the difference between losing and winning.”
Misbah adds that he is optimistic about this tour.
"I'm hopeful we'll do better this time."
Pakistan will have to stop Steve Smith if they are to have any chance of beating Australia. The number one ranked Test batsman had a comeback for the ages. He scored 774 runs at a whopping average of 110.58 in the Ashes as Australia retained the Ashes under Tim Paine’s captaincy. He already has two Sheffield Shield centuries and will be eagerly awaiting the start of the series.
The 44-year-old knows Pakistan will have to be on their toes as they cannot afford to give players more than one chance. Smith was given three lives in his knock of 139 in Brisbane test which Pakistan eventually lost by 39 runs. Misbah rued those missed chances as it proved to be the difference between winning and losing.
"No doubt Steve Smith is a top player in Test cricket, especially after his performance in the Ashes and the way he played against us in the T20s," Misbah said.
"He's a tough opponent. He has less weak areas where you can bowl and get him out, he's an immensely important player for Australia and the backbone of their batting.”
The head coach knows the importance of Steve Smith’s wicket and getting him out early may shift the momentum towards Pakistan.
"For us, it'll be important to get his wicket early in the innings because once he's set, he can play the sort of innings that can take you out of the match.”
Misbah says bowling just outside off to Smith early on in his innings could be the way to get him out early.
“We've got to be consistent, bowl to him in good areas and make him play early in the innings.”
"If you bowl to him at the fourth-stump line and make him play from there, there can be a chance for a nick,’ he added
Furthermore Misbah believes Yasir Shah might be the go-to bowler for Pakistan when Smith comes on as he has more chance of inducing the nick behind with his leg spinners.
Smith got out thrice to an edge behind the stumps and Yasir Shah got him twice in his four dismissals in 2016-17 series.
Yasir Shah has dismissed Smith 6 times in tests and twice he has been dismissed by Kaneria, which means 8 out of his 12 dismissals against Pakistan have come against leg spinners.
This record might force Pakistan to keep Yasir Shah in the playing 11 despite his poor record in Australia. He has taken nine wickets in 6 Tests at an average of 95.11.
"We know Yasir hasn't done well in these conditions, but three years is a long time. He now has experience of playing in Australia," Misbah said.
However Yasir Shah has performed well in domestic circuit this season, taking 21 wickets in 8 innings in Quaid e Azam Trophy.
"He's coming on this tour on the back of some good performances in first-class cricket, where he's bowled long spells. He's worked a lot on his bowling, keeping the conditions in mind. We'll make the final game plan and see how effective Yasir is in it."
Babar Azam is Pakistan’s main player and they will be heavily banking on him to take Pakistan to victory against the mighty Aussies. He has been averaging 50.66 in tests since the start of 2018 compared to 23.75 before that.
"There is a world of difference between Babar of 2016 and Babar now. He's now a matured and experienced player.” Misbah says.
Also Babar Azam would want to put behind the horror he had in Australia last time out, scoring only 68 runs in 6 innings. However a century against Australia A last week would have given him some confidence ahead of the two-match test series.
"In 2016, he was very new and didn't have much experience in Test cricket. Also, he was batting at number three. Now he's batting in the middle-order and has the experience of three (more) years on his side.”
"He did well in South Africa and batted beautifully against fast bowling.
"There is improvement in his batting.
He has been Pakistan’s best batsman across all three formats for the last couple of years. He scored back to back fifties in the recently concluded T20Is.
"He plays good shots on the back foot, which will be handy in these conditions. He's scored runs in T20s as well as in the tour match so he'll be coming into the series on the back of some good form. He's our key player."
Pakistan’s batting is sorted, it’s their bowling lineup which they should worry about. Mohammad Amir having retired from longer format is no longer available and so does Wahab Riaz who has taken a break from red-ball cricket.
Pakistan’s bowlers struggled in their last tour of Australia. The conditions in Australia are such that it tests the bowlers to their limit. Imran Khan Sr and Sohail Khan had a hard time bowling there. Even Amir found it difficult. Imran Khan, nonetheless, is the only survivor from that pace attack.
"I had a meeting with the regional coaches (and) there was a unanimous opinion that Imran Khan has been bowling really well," said the chief selector.
"In the past, he used to struggle with his comeback spells and he used to drop pace. He's worked really hard on his strength (and) is much fitter than before."
Having pace is not a problem but it’s the inexperience that may prove to be the undoing of Pakistan. Imran Khan Sr is making a comeback after two years, to go with the young attack of Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, and Musa Khan. However, the pace attack did pretty well in the 3-day game against Australia A dismissing them for 122.
"The best thing about Naseem Shah is the control he has on his bowling. He has a very good bowling action and knows which deliveries to bowl. He can bowl with a very good control,” said Misbah.
The five pacers have played 26 tests among them and 14 of those have been played by Mohammad Abbas while Musa and Naseem are yet to make their debut.
Naseem Shah showed a glimpse of his pace against Australia A and Misbah will be hoping he can be a surprise for the Aussies.
"He knows his stuff and bowled really well in the first-class matches he played this season. He's bowled well here too and is the standout bowler for us. The way he's been bowling, he can be a match-winner for us."
Misbah knows this might be the golden opportunity for his young attack to achieve what no other Pakistan team has achieved.
"In these conditions, you've got to have good bowling options," he said. "You've got to have a bowling attack that can give you 20 wickets.
"Our bowlers are in form and in good rhythm (and) we're hopeful that we'll give a tough time to Australia."