Misbah the ODI Captain: Average; Misbah the ODI Batsman: a Giant
Misbah the ODI captain and Misbah the ODI batsman are two very different people. While the captain was timid, defensive, weak, and lacked imagination; the batsman was calculated, strong in both defence and attack, imaginative, and a giant of the game. If only he had translated the latter into his captaincy, he might not have as many critics as he does.
Despite ODI series wins in India and South Africa and an Asia Cup title under his belt, Misbah was just an average ODI captain. Some say that he didn't have the right resources and a captain is just as good as his team; I argue that men like Imran Khan and Shahid Afridi inspired average teams to do great things. Misbah just could not.
Misbah has won more ODIs as captain than he has lost, but his Win % is far less than most of Pakistan's ODI captains.
Performances of former Pakistani skippers
Misbah averages almost 50 in ODIs won by Pakistan, however Yousuf, Miandad, Anwar, and Inzamam have superior records. Not only in terms of average but also the volume of runs scored in ODI victories. Even Saleem Malik and Ijaz Ahmed scored more centuries and fifties in ODI wins for Pakistan.
Misbah's average decline by about 3 runs when we look at his performance in matches that Pakistan won under his captaincy.
One of the best away from home
It should be noted that the record above does not include ODIs played in the UAE. No one even comes close to Misbah's average of 48.6, which is a good 10 runs higher than the next batsman on the list. What is even more interesting is that Misbah's strike rate in ODIs played away from home is bettered by only Yousuf, U Akmal, Razzaq, and Hafeez. In matches played away from home, Misbah has striked at a better rate than Inzamam!
This record for Misbah is not exclusive to Pakistan. Among all Asian batsmen, Misbah is just at another level when it comes to ODIs played in foreign countries.
Misbah averages a significant 16 more runs than the next batsman on the list in ODIs played in Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand, and West Indies. In fact, he and Zaheer Abbas are the only two Pakistanis among the seven Asian batsmen who average above 40 in ODIs played in these countries.
For perspective, Anwar and Inzamam average only 27.9 and 29.8 respectively in ODIs played in these countries; while Miandad and Yousuf average 37.7 and 35.3 respectively.
While I agree with the criticism about his captaincy, there is no way anyone can criticize Misbah the batsman. He is an ODI batting giant and one of the best produced by Pakistan. One can only wonder what he could have achieved had he played during his younger years when he was amassing runs in the domestic circuit.
A strong Pakistan middle order comprising of Younis, Yousuf, and Inzamam meant that Misbah could not find many opportunities till after Inzamam left in 2007, following which he found himself often dragging Pakistan out of trouble. Misbah rarely had the opportunity to play with the freedom he would have liked.
Misbah leaves the ODI game as one of the only 27 ODI batsmen in the world with an average north of 40. He leaves it with a better average than all Pakistani greats and other world class batsmen such as Ponting, Sangakkara, Lara, Haynes, Kirsten, and Ganguly.
Being talked about in the same breath as Inzamam, Yousuf, Miandad, and Anwar in Pakistan's batting chronicles is an achievement and a half. Considering that Misbah did better than them as an ODI batsman and one realizes his true worth.
I will be the first to admit that I was not a fan of his captaincy, or his ability to suck the life of Pakistan's batting while at the crease. But I will also say that often he had no other choice. Misbah's performance is a classic case of a realization that comes too late; his value as an ODI batsman was rarely recognized, however, it will be now like never before once he has left the game for good.