Misbah-ul-Haq, the Tuk-Tuk who gives flight to Pakistan cricket
Misbah-ul-Haq, who bowed out of international cricket with a victory against the West Indies in the third and final Test at Dominica on Sunday, was often compared to a Tuk-Tuk, a three-wheeled, slow-paced vehicle used to ferry passengers in the Indian subcontinent. Though this sobriquet is more of a dig at the Pakistani Test skipper’s sedate batting style, it also underlines his importance in his team over the years.
Slow and unglamorous as Tuk-Tuk may be, it happens to be a low-maintenance mode of transportation for all seasons and regions. Misbah too has been a low-profile figure throughout the course of his 16-year long career, but his impact both as a batsman and a leader has been exemplary.
Pakistani cricket had hit a nadir during the 2010 tour of England when British tabloid ‘News of the World’ exposed the involvement of the then captain Salman Butt, along with fast bowlers, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, in spot-fixing. It was amid this low that Misbah took over the wheel of captaincy. For the next seven years, he provided a smooth ride to his side with Pakistan reaching the peak of World No. 1 in ICC Test rankings in 2016.
A late bloomer
As an international batsman, Misbah was a late bloomer. He, in fact, had an MBA degree before making his Test debut at the age of 27. And, though he impressed one and all by batting for more than two hours for a dogged 28 in his first innings in Auckland, he didn’t show much consistency in the early stage of his career. The repercussion – he was soon dropped and didn’t get to play even a single Test between 2003 and 2007.
Misbah 2.0 arrived with a bang in the 2007 T-20 World Championship in South Africa. Picked after scoring a handful of runs in domestic competitions, he batted with aplomb throughout the tournament and nearly won his team the final against India in Johannesburg. His purple patch in T20s helped him make a comeback to white ball cricket as well and he made the most of his opportunity by amassing 464 runs in the three-match Test series against India. He didn’t look back from there.
Misbah-ul-Haq in Tests
When the Tuk-Tuk became a Fighter Jet
For all the memes produced on his ultra defensive vigil in the middle, it may sound surprising that Misbah holds the distinction for slamming Test cricket’s joint second fastest hundred. He achieved this feat by blasting a 56-ball second-innings century against Australia on November 2, 2014, at Abu Dhabi.
Coming out to bat at number five in the second innings with his team’s overall lead reading 461 runs, the Pakistani skipper went berserk from the word go on that afternoon, smashing five sixes and 11 fours on his way to an unbeaten 57-ball 101. His hurricane of a knock had seen him equal Vivian Richards’ record for the fastest hundred in Tests back then. He continued to hold this honour for two years before Brendon McCullum eclipsed it with a 54-ball swashbuckling ton against Australia at the Hagley Oval.
Misbah’s greatest legacy lies in the way he lifted Pakistan from the horrors of spot-fixing scandal to the height of Test cricket glory. With 26 wins, he happens to be the most successful Pakistani captain in Tests. Apart from turning UAE into an impregnable fortress for his side, he led Pakistan to series victories in Sri Lanka and New Zealand as well.
MIsbah’record as captain:
The best moment in Misbah’s captaincy stint came on English soil in 2016 when his team drew a four-Test series with England 2-2. He scored a memorable ton at Lord’s to set the foundation for his side’s victory in the first Test. The century was also noteworthy for the fact that at 42, the veteran Pakistani became the oldest man to hit a Test hundred in 82 years.
Fittingly, Misbah led Pakistan to a nerve-wracking, series-clinching victory against the West Indies in his swansong at Dominica. With this win, he became the first ever Pakistan skipper to win a Test series on the soil of Caribbean Islands.
Misbah would not be remembered for his batting and captaincy only. Equally impressive was his Zen-like personality which held a team of short tempered youngsters and whining veterans glued together. Come what may, it’s hard to remember an occasion when this strongly built man from Mianwali may have lost his cool on the field.
During Pakistan’s 2016-17 tour Down Under, the hosts were all over the visitors. There were sessions in which Pakistani players were dropping catches by the dozens, yet Misbah was always seen laughing and patting his young players like a doting uncle. He was the shoulder that everyone in the team needed to rest his head on and attain an equanimous state.
Farewell Misbah! You will be sorely missed by cricket lovers around the world.