Lahore: Pakistan's Test and one-day captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Twenty20 skipper Mohammad Hafeez again denied reports of a rift on Tuesday, saying the rumours were damaging the team. Misbah had already denied similar reports on the team's return from South Africa where Pakistan were routed 3-0 in Tests and were edged out 3-2 in the one-day series, defeats which local media blamed on differences within the side.
But former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Ijaz Butt reignited the controversy on Tuesday, alleging Hafeez and team's head coach Dav Whatmore had formed a nexus that left Misbah sidelined. "Both Hafeez and Whatmore support and back each other and that has put great pressure on Misbah, affecting his performance," Butt told local media.
Pakistani cricket has a long and sorry history of infighting and Hafeez said Butt's accusations were bad for Pakistan. "Ijaz Butt is a respected person and he should have thought that such a statement affects a country's image," Hafeez, sitting alongside Misbah, told a press conference.
Misbah said Pakistan lost because South Africa played better. "I said this in South Africa, I repeated this on the team's return and now I say this again -- we lost because South Africa were a better team and the reason of our defeat was not differences," said Misbah.
Hafeez, who replaced Misbah as one-day skipper in May last year, said the Pakistan team needed better and more positive support. "Such baseless reports of differences do not help," said Hafeez, who flopped with the bat in both Tests and one-dayers.
Pakistan's next assignment is the eight-nation Champions Trophy in England in June, and Misbah was upbeat. "Pakistan has done well in England so I am quite hopeful that we will achieve good results in the Champions Trophy," he said.
Pakistan face India, South Africa and the West Indies in the group stage of the tournament, while defending champions Australia, England, Sri Lanka and New Zealand make up the other pool.