Misbah-ul-Haq: The lone drone against an army
The most intriguing thing about cricket is its ability to churn out talent after talent. If Don Bradman retired, another legend arrived in the name of Allan Border. If Sachin is about to leave, Virat Kohli is raring to take his place, his fame and what not. In the end, it’s not about what you achieve; rather, it is the legacy that you leave behind takes precedence once you leave the scenario.
Misbah-Ul-Haq is not a legend by any means, but has carved a niche for himself in the vast and competitive world of cricket. His fluidity, the calming presence and the ability to grind has held him in good stead over the years. A late bloomer, Misbah has made the most of the chance that was bestowed upon him.
The oldest one day player around in international cricket, he is mocked for the defensive strategy that he brings with his batting. Often being called ‘tuk-tuk’ in a mock reference to his slow paced batting, Misbah-Ul-Haq, the enigmatic skipper of Pakistan is a source of inspiration for many.
Recently I came across this comment in a MS Dhoni fan page where some Pakistani fans wanted to exchange Dhoni for Misbah, rueing on how they lack a dynamic and performing skipper. How foolish could they be! I admit that MS Dhoni is a better cricketer overall, but I firmly believe that Pakistan could not be led by a better skipper at this juncture. There are upcoming youngsters and some of the seniors are barely keeping their place on the team.
Having been dropped and reconsidered for most of his career, Misbah does not want to call it quits. In fact, he has suggested that he is ready to keep playing until form and fitness pushes him out of competitive cricket.
In a team that has been constantly marred by match-fixing scandals, Misbah could be called the only ray of hope. After the spot-fixing scandal broke out, Shahid Afridi was handed over the captaincy and he quickly realized that it was a throne made of thorn. The team constantly engaged in internal politics and back-door lobbying which pushed a straight-forward man like Afridi out of the team.
It was then Misbah came in to the bigger picture. Having been consistent with the bat, Misbah was handed over the captaincy and he was successful immediately. A surprise candidate for captaincy, Misbah ensured that the team was behind the scandals and concentrated on building a team for the future. Being appointed as the captain at a relatively older age of 36, critics did not expect much from him.
Misbah-Ul-Haq made his debut in the year 2001. A highly successful team at that time, Pakistan had some extraordinary cricketers in their ranks. Misbah was washed away in the tide, lack of temperament being his enemy. He was in and out of the side for the bulk of his career before making a permanent mark in the 2007 T20 world cup.
The irony of watching him play those bizarre scoops couldn’t be more transparent as that side of Misbah is rarely seen today. He reminds me of MS Dhoni in many aspects. Dhoni, who was once a pinch-hitter, moulded his game to suit the needs of his team. Likewise, Misbah has completely transformed from his 2007 exploits, lending a new dimension to his cricketing acumen.
Having shed his tag of pinch-hitter, Misbah has evolved over the years as the anchor of the Pakistani middle order. The general situation on Misbah’s entry into any match would be mostly at 30-3. In other words, he used to walk-in to bat when the team was looking down the barrel with the loss of early wickets. Misbah’s qualities lie in his appropriate use of the resources available to him. He carefully scrutinizes the situation, slowly getting into rhythm by playing those cheeky little singles and doubles.
When Misbah faces more than twenty balls, then the opponents should be mentally prepared to grind hard to acquire his wicket, because once he sets in, he seldom plays a false stroke. He would make sure that the scorecard is honourable enough before taking the long walk back.
Recalling his exploits, he would still be feeling terrible about the bizarre shot he attempted and got out to in the 2007 T20 world cup final. Pakistan had to chase a competitive total in front of a huge crowd, probably one of the liveliest crowds ever seen in the history of the game. Every India-Pakistan match is celebrated like a festival, fought like a battle and the loss, mourned like the death of our dearest. Such an encounter in the finals would be the perfect icing on the cake for Misbah. He would have fancied his chances of cementing his place in the side, once and for all.
But fate had its own ideas, or rather; it was a result of his unkempt invention at the wrong time. Misbah brought back a lost match to life with his skilful shot making capabilities. At one point, Pakistan was almost cruising before he committed that blasphemy. That one foolish shot that destroyed the resistance that he gradually built, restoring faith in every Pakistani. That moment shattered it all as he scooped a catch to Sreesanth at fine-leg, handing over a golden chance to score over their arch rivals.
From then, it has been a roller coaster ride for the warrior who has taken upon the responsibility of shepherding an unruly side. He has given the Pakistani fans something to cheer about, with his dogged batting skills and shrewd captaincy tactics. It is absolutely warming to see how Misbah has encouraged youngsters like Nasir Jamshed and Umar Akmal, handing them critical responsibilities and making them perform to the fullest potential.
Unrelenting as he is, he is a true champion; a saviour for the controversy stricken Pakistani team!