Misbah-ul-Haq has defended Pakistan's demotion to No. 4 in the T20I rankings by claiming that the team was already sliding in the shortest format before he was installed as the head coach-cum-chief selector.
Pakistan were dethroned by Australia from the summit of the T20I standings earlier this year in May after a 27-month reign at the top.
The blame for Pakistan's sharp T20I decline has largely been apportioned to Misbah, under whom the team endured a humiliating whitewash at home against Sri Lanka and then suffered another series defeat in Australia.
But the former Pakistan skipper has reminded critics that the team's downfall in 20-over cricket predated his arrival in the set-up.
"Of course, Pakistan was No. 1 [in T20Is] but if you recall, even before I took over, the team was already on a losing streak," Misbah stated in a press conference at Lahore on Monday.
"The team had lost in South Africa and England. The slide had begun and everyone knows why it happened."
"Some of the players were out of form. Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Hasan Ali, who were the main contributors to our rise in the rankings, went into a slump and the team also felt the dip," he pointed out.
"We are now trying to take these players and new boys towards that level."
Also Read: How Pakistan lost their No. 1 rank in T20Is
A notable feature of Pakistan's performances during the Old Trafford clashes was an impressive batting performance on both occasions. Helped by splendid contributions from veteran Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan made 195 and 190 in the two games.
"Pakistan has always faced criticism for a lack of firepower in T20 cricket but I think we are going towards that. Posting 190+ in successive innings in English conditions against their bowling attack, I believe we are on the right track," Misbah said. "We need to do it more consistently now."
"Although we have not gotten the desired results, I am satisfied with the process and the vision of building a good team in the long-run," he added.
Babar Azam's captaincy has been under scrutiny ever since he took over the reins from the hugely successful Sarfaraz Ahmed last year.
Doubts linger over his ability to exude confidence and assert authority in a team that is populated with quite a few senior players.
Misbah, nevertheless, rejected all negative notions regarding Babar and backed the 25-year-old to grow as a leader.
"Babar is a powerful captain, he makes his own decisions. There are no restrictions on him from our side as we believe it is necessary to fully empower him.
"I have also been a captain and I believe unless you take your own decisions, you will never learn and grow. Captains do make mistakes but he will get better with time."
Misbah voiced deep regret about Pakistan's inability to clinch a series win in both formats across the tour. While the 46-year-old was disappointed with the overall outcome, he generously assessed his team's showings and praised their resilience for putting up a strong fight in foreign conditions.
"Overall, it was a very important tour considering the Covid-19 situation since cricket had been on a three-month hiatus. If I summarise the tour, obviously my biggest regret is in terms of results as we could have won the Test series 1-0 and the T20Is 2-0," he bemoaned.
"But if we look back at the cricket we played in difficult circumstances without any preparation, the discipline shown by the players is commendable.
"The way we dominated the first Test match barring one unfortunate session and scored 190+ twice in the T20Is, it was really impressive. Bouncing back after the defeat in the second T20I was something special as we defended the total."
Pakistan were mostly hampered by a highly inexperienced bowling line-up with 17-year-old Naseem Shah and 20-year-old Shaheen Afridi slotting into their pace trio for the Tests.
Misbah admitted the rookie players' ineptitude at controlling nerves probably resulted in their defeats in the first Test and the second T20I despite setting daunting targets for the opposing team.
Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi bowl in the nets ©Getty Images
"Our bowling unit is inexperienced and deserves more time in the competitive arena. We are working with them and giving them opportunities but they will have to go through the process of gaining experience and becoming mature gradually. We require patience to achieve those results," he stressed.
"If you take that one session [of the first Test] out, it becomes evident that our inexperience made us panic. The same thing happened in the second T20 when a bowler of ours got injured, we panicked slightly. With the passage of time as they play more cricket, they will improve tactically."
Pakistan could have opted for the services of Wahab Riaz during the red-ball encounters to tackle the issue of a dearth of experience in their bowling arsenal. The left-arm paceman had conveyed his willingness to make a comeback to Test cricket but Misbah said he wasn't fully available owing to the stringent coronavirus protocols in place.
"Wahab couldn't get ready in time for the Test matches because of the Covid-19 protocols. He eventually got his chance and performed well and he still has a crucial role to play for Pakistan in white-ball cricket. He's definitely a match-winner."