Misbah-ul-Haq: The unheralded leader, the unassuming legend
In a mercurial Pakistan, Misbah has carved out a niche for himself with his measured approach and has slipped under the radar.
Serenity, as they say, is not attaining peace from the storm, it is attaining peace amidst the storm. In today's world, when almost everything is frenetic, everything is fast paced, everything demands results, everything is either black and white, solace is attained when there is stillness when there is this feeling that there is 'serenity' somewhere in the mix.
Enter Misbah-ul-Haq, a monk in Pakistani colours. In a day and age when fast-paced Twenty20 has hijacked the psyche of the general public, few have raised their eyebrows for the white-clad Misbah. Call it fate, call it life, call it destiny, even after bringing unprecedented accolades to Pakistan, the general public always cringe when Misbah's name pops up. The irony then runs around in laps as Misbah's legacy will always be dotted by his inability to finish off the 2007 World T20 Finals. After having done so much for Test Cricket, it is a crying shame that the man will be remembered by a T20 match.
Fans on either side of the border do not easily forget (or forgive) defeats against each other, hence, it is no surprise that Misbah was accorded acceptance fairly late. The word 'serenity' has become synonymous with Misbah, because he shielded himself from all the criticism and just went about his business. Perhaps, he was bound to go under the radar, as he took over the captaincy after that fateful 2010 spot-fixing saga that rocked Pakistan cricket.
Change is never smooth, it is always a kneejerk reaction. It was the same when Misbah got to the hot seat. His stoic batting, stodgy approach and to many robotic captaincies was always under intense scrutiny, right from the outset. The man did not care. He believed in the approach even if his team-mates around refused to learn from the leader. The man did not budge, even though his team threw in the towel at the slightest hint of any hurdle. The man kept chugging along and has led 18 Test series, out of which he has won 9, drawn six and lost just three. Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand and Sri Lanka came up and frittered away. All this has come away from home, in front of empty stands!
From the nadir of 2010, Misbah has led Pakistan to number 3. If this does not deserve praise, I fail to understand what else will? The man for the crisis, it has become almost impossible to see a Pakistan test team without their trusted lieutenant. His personal statistics are a testimony to the fact that he is probably the best the Test batsmen in the squad. Some might argue that Younis Khan deserves this tag, well probably this debate sums up the career of Misbah.
In 61 Test Matches, Misbah has scored 4352 at an average of 48.89. Also the fact that he is fourth on the list of players who have scored most runs after the age of 40 exemplifies his worth and character. The biggest virtue of the man is his steely temperament and unflappable nature. In hindsight, he was the best man to lead his nation out of the 2010-dark phase. And all this at the age of 36!
Recognition has finally come Misbah's way, albeit a bit late. Shahryar Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board has gone on record saying, "His leadership qualities are exceptional and we need him. I will do my utmost to stop him from retiring".
There is a reason why people scorned at him. He is an educated person, who holds an MBA degree. He loves to be prepared, he wants to contemplate before jumping to conclusions, he wants to be reasonable, all these traits are not quite what Pakistan cricket is known for. In an environment where everything just happens, Misbah brought is the reason. How could he be ever accepted with glee?
After the dust settles, after he finally calls it a day, how will we remember Misbah ul Haq? Will he be remembered as a defensive block, or as a captain who led his nation with pride and calculation? Will he be remembered as the man who tried to play a glory shot and ended up gifting the match to the arch-rivals, or as a man who walked into perennial crisis and rescued his team by dropping anchor and by his' tuk-tuk'?
Does the man care, or his reasons and pragmatic approach will make him not worry about his impression. After all his numbers are his greatest legacy, and slowly but surely, Pakistan the team and the Nation have realised the importance of that big forward press and that dead bat.
Misbah ul Haq, is the legend that no one saw coming, and no one will see going, but then he will be a man who loved the game, who loved his nation and confronted everything with a smile and a dead bat.
And then this, he also equaled the record of Sir Vivian Richards for the fastest Test century in the history of the game, a record which was later bettered by Brendon McCullum in his last game prior to retirement. Put on your judgment hat, Misbah will still not care!