Last man standing

Published Oct 27, 2013 07:05am

By the time this article appears on these pages, the second Test between Pakistan and South Africa in Dubai must have entered its fifth and last day. It might be heading for a dull draw, or might end in a victory for either of the two teams. Or it might have already ended with Pakistan winning and taking the series 2-0 or SA rebounding to make it 1-1. Whatever the result of the Test, it will have no bearing or impact on certain unprecedented facts about Misbahul Haq’s captaincy.

Apart from the not-so-unique fact that he was elevated to become the Pakistan cricket team’s captain at a time when Pakistan’s cricket was under tremendous stress due to some infamous match-fixing episodes and vicious in-fighting, Misbah has gone ahead to set a record of sorts that is (surprisingly) not talked about.

Vehemently criticised by the many fans of the game and so-called experts in Pakistan for being too defensive in his batting and captaincy, Misbah has actually become the backbone of the team’s fragile batting line-up and its most prolific scorer, retaining a batting average of over 50 in the last one year or so.

A stylish right-handed batsman with a classical, old-school approach to batting, Misbah also has the ability to suddenly switch gears and apply almost all the innovations modern-day batsmen have concocted, especially in ODI and T20 games.

Though he made his Test debut in 2001, Misbah soon lost his form and place in the team. But in spite of the fact that he regained his form and scored heavily in the domestic circuit, he could not find a permanent place in the Test side till he was again given a chance in 2007 at the age of 33.

Former Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Shaheryar Khan, wrote in his most recent book that Misbah was consciously kept out of the side by dashing middle-order batsman, Inzimamul Haq, who was Pakistan’s captain from 2003 till 2007.

According to Khan, Inzimam (who rose to stardom from a humble family background), was not comfortable with the fact that Misbah was one of the most educated players in the circuit (he’s an MBA); something Inzimam thought could undermine his captaincy.

A report that appeared two months ago in a respected Urdu daily suggested that another reason Inzimam was not all that enthusiastic about Misbah’s return, was because Misbah was unwilling to participate in Inzimam’s tactic of using religion to instill discipline in the team and gain unquestioning loyalty from his players.

Nevertheless, the moment Inzimam retired in 2007, Misbah was at once recalled by the new captain, Shoaib Malik.

Though now aged 33, Misbah managed to become a solid mainstay of the team in all the formats of the game.

However, three years later he once again lost form and was discarded. It is quite possible that Misbah would have remained out had the team not been rocked by notorious match-fixing scandals in 2010 and vicious in-fighting between groupings headed by former captains, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi.

It was during this turmoil that the now 37-year-old Misbah was made captain. The year was 2011. Apart from having to prove that he was still good enough to become a permanent member of the team, he was asked to head a squad riddled with groupings, inner squabbles, controversies and the fact that Pakistan had been unable to play at home ever since 2009 because no team was willing to tour the country due to the increasingly precarious security concerns in the country.

Unlike some of the most successful former captains of Pakistan, such as Hafeez Kardar, Mushtaq Muhammad and Imran Khan, who were aggressive, outspoken and dictatorial in their approach, Misbah was quite the opposite.

He was quiet, extremely private, reserved and painfully introverted (but with a dry sense of humour). Not many saw him surviving as captain in a volatile team like Pakistan and yet, it was his quiet demeanour and the ever-growing habit of leading from the front (as a batsman), that eventually restored the much needed calm and order in the team.

But since cricket fans and media in Pakistan are as volatile as Pakistan’s cricket teams, Misbah’s enigmatic persona and quiet disposition actually ended up having a polarising effect. Not in the team, but on those around it.

There are fanatical Misbah fans and then there are those who simply refuse to recognise him as a genuine cricketing item, criticising him for being too defensive and undemonstrative.

But these traits have actually worked for him. Beyond the media and the fans, insiders who are close to the team have repeatedly told this writer that Misbah has actually managed to command tremendous respect from his players, an occurrence that has always eluded most Pakistani captains.

Apart from rising to become one of the team’s most dependable batsmen and a player who is actually getting better with age (he’ll turn 40 next year), Misbah has created an unprecedented record of sorts as skipper.

He is the only long-standing captain in the history of the game who has never led a Test side at home. He’s never had the benefit of what in cricket is called a home advantage where you play on grounds, pitches, surroundings and cities you are most familiar with.

Even the most successful Pakistani captains won a bulk of their games at home. And yet, Misbah, who has thus far led all of his 23 Tests as captain on foreign grounds and countries, is just three wins away from the record of 14 wins each by Imran Khan and Javed Miandad and one away from Wasim Akram’s 12.

But Misbah has won 11 out of the 23 Tests that he has captained (all on foreign grounds and conditions), whereas Imran needed 48 and Miandad 34 Tests respectively to notch their 14 wins.

What’s more, he is also a war time skipper. Captain of a side whose country has been in a state of a vicious civil war between the state and extremists, and where no foreign side has visited ever since 2009.

In all this commotion, Misbah has continued to carry himself as a guarded diplomat who is almost entirely undemonstrative about his politics and religiosity and simply refuses to let the reactive, knee-jerk criticism that comes his way to jar his apparently steely nerves.

Without many even noticing this, Misbah may as well be on his way of becoming one of the most successful Test captains in Pakistan.


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Comments (36) Closed




Tahir A
Oct 27, 2013 08:13am

Superb insight in this article and agreed 100% with the observations expressed.

Alas, the world is now full of the hot blood brigade looking for every ball to be hit for a six. An unfortunate mindset that is bringing Test Match cricket close to extinction at the expense of chitty chitty bang bang T20 which is embellished with live mirch massala interviews akin to WWF and Sa re ga ma reality show programs.

Under such circumstances I fail to see how future A H Karder, Majid Khan, Misbah Haq et al can have the remotest chance of being cricketers, let alone captains Yeah, go on bring on your "head and shoulder" repute heroes.

Jim
Oct 27, 2013 08:32am

My respect for Misbah ul Haq has gone up tremendously. Even as an Indian, I'll love to see him lead a good Pakistani team to India and beat them on their home ground, proving in the process that you don't have to be religious and invoke god to play well, something which Pakistanis so often (invoke god, not play well). Leave religion out of cricket.

TKhan
Oct 27, 2013 09:57am

Speak softly and take all the Wickets! It worked.

Atif Siddiqui
Oct 27, 2013 10:23am

Excellent article, Misbah deserves recognition for his contributions. I admire his commitment with the cause regardless of what the results are.He is honest with his job and this trait lacks highly in Pakistan cricket.

Krish Chennai
Oct 27, 2013 11:19am

While this article is cool, and great, of NFP, as an aficionado of cricket over the decades, it may be better if he could get into the national game of the two countries in the sub-continent (reminder : hockey), and give suggestions on how best to revive this. Or does he feel it is not worth the effort anymore ? Hope Dawn will publish this comment.

Capt C M Khan
Oct 27, 2013 12:08pm

"An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep". You are correct NFP. I had the good fortune of spending few days with Misbah when he visited Namibia with Pakistan "A" side in 2007. Extremely Humble, Dedicated and hard working player. He has led Pakistan team like a Lion.

magic
Oct 27, 2013 12:12pm

Interesting article as usual. NFP's mind has great analytical approach and his pen has magic. Keep it up NFP.

Umair
Oct 27, 2013 01:10pm

well yes as a Test Captain and as a test batsman he's good but he don't deserve a place in ODI team - I know many people wouldn't agree but that's true !

Khaled
Oct 27, 2013 03:55pm

Misbah is great

Karachi Wala
Oct 27, 2013 04:47pm

"Last man standing". A true heading because after Misbah, boom boom mentality will rule and lead the dying Pakistan cricket to its grave.

aks
Oct 27, 2013 04:51pm

Imran and Miandad are over rated. Misbah is the true leader.

Tariq K Sami
Oct 27, 2013 06:53pm

It is not easy to be the Pakistan Cricket Captain lets see how long he can last. I wish him the best.

Tariq K Sami
Oct 27, 2013 06:53pm

It is not easy to be the Pakistan Cricket Captain lets see how long he can last. I wish him the best.

BILAL TARIQ
Oct 27, 2013 07:43pm

Dear Sir,

Although Misbah has earned respect as a captain, The above mentioned statistics do no tell the whole picture.. The misbah has never won a single Test against India in India. England in England, (This was done by Imran Khan and Wasim Akram) Australia in Australia (Done by Mushtaq Mohammed) and South Africa in South Africa ( All quality Teams).. Further winning in UAE is our home series not abroad, because pitch conditions and Crowd support is just like Pakistan

Rafi
Oct 27, 2013 08:09pm

@BILAL TARIQ.

Hi Bilal, so you want feats of Imran, Wasim, Mushtaq all in one guy called Misbah? Kind of unfair. Let quality foreign teams start coming to Pakistan again, first. These are difficult times for Pakistan and the Pak team is just about keeping its head above the water and surviving.

Let us talk about changing drastically the Pakistan cricket club and school cricket structure first. You will then get and find talented guys as well as players with a thinking head who can lead like Misbah.

Karachi Wala
Oct 27, 2013 08:13pm

@BILAL TARIQ:

"The above mentioned statistics do no tell the whole picture.. The misbah has never won a single Test against India in India. England in England, (This was done by Imran Khan and Wasim Akram) Australia in Australia (Done by Mushtaq Mohammed) and South Africa in South Africa ( All quality Teams).. Further winning in UAE is our home series not abroad, because pitch conditions and Crowd support is just like Pakistan".

You have a point there, but look at the quality of players at the disposal of Imran, Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Mohammad and compare it with what Misbah has at his disposal.

riaz
Oct 27, 2013 08:22pm

it's a great article.

Masood Hussain
Oct 27, 2013 08:24pm

Liked the comments on Misbah's cricket and his captaincy,but Inzimam in an interview after retirement denied any ambition for captaincy, One must recognise Inzi's modesty in accepting uncondionally Miandad and Sacchin being superior players.

cameo
Oct 27, 2013 08:30pm

Pakistan Cricket team is a microcosm of Pakistan.

You have crooks like Salman butt. You have self-righteous ball biting mullahs like Shahid Afridi.

And then you have people like Misbah ul Haq who just wouldn't give up against adversity. He may not have the chrisma of Imran Khan or the talent Inzimam but man he has got some guts and determination. The kind that make you feel proud to be a Pakistani.

ammar
Oct 27, 2013 09:42pm

@cameo: Well said. Misbah is a gutsy player. We are masters are turning things into crisis, and he is the only player I know who shines in adversity --- he is all out class.

ahsan
Oct 27, 2013 10:04pm

He indeed is one of the greats of Pakistan cricket. In fact given the current circumstances, no other person could have carried the Pakistani Flag so gracefully and with so much honor.

sali
Oct 27, 2013 11:31pm

Only if he had a player like Saeed Anwar or Yosuf Yohanna in the team, he could have done greater things. This is the most fragile batting line up in the history yet Misbah manages to win. Except, when they fall....they really fall hard.

danish
Oct 28, 2013 02:54am

@Karachi Wala: dear Karachi Wala, sor your information since Misbah became captain he played in Dubai 2010 v SA draw New zealand tour 2010-11 series won tour to bangladesh - series won Dubai v Sri Lanka - series won tour to Zimbabwe 2011 - series won Tour to west indies series draw dubai v England 2012 white washed England tour to SL2012 - series lost 1-0 tour to SA 2013 series lost 3-0Dubai tour to Zimbabwe series draw Dubai v SA2013 - series draw

Misbah:s team have no schedule to play test against India in India, pakistan's tour to Australia is in 2016 ad tour to England is also in 2016. so tell me how can you say Misbah is not good, go and learn about cricket then comment here......don't just sit and criticise everyone, I am sure you are not Karachi wala you are Indian.......

Mudabbir
Oct 28, 2013 04:55am

This article brings to mind a scene from the movie "Forest Gump" in which Tom Hanks is brought under media spotlight because of his cross-country running adventure . He begins to attract fans and newspapers begin to write about him in an attempt to interpret this action of his . Some say that he is doing it for world peace while others argue that he does it for other "good" causes . When he is asked himself while on road , he replies , "I just felt like running".

Rasa AI
Oct 28, 2013 06:38am

Misbah's winning record is a fluke. Wins only in middle east do not prove any thing. He even lost to the SL in SL. Though his individual record is brilliant, but he is far from Miandad, Inzi, Imran, Wasim who won the world cup or had some role in winning a world cup. All I remember is Misbah playing a wrong shot in T20 2007 when Pak was in a good position to win the match. Then, I also remember his playing style in last overs of the world cup 2011 semi final. All in all, he is a good player, but not great. This man has serious nervousness problem.

Javeed
Oct 28, 2013 08:39am

Initially I too was of the opinion that Misba lacks aggression and he is a bit sloppy but now he has changed my views altogether. He has won my respect by continuously improving and proving his worth in all the conditions. And look how cool he is, regardless of the immense pressure (in recent times the batting collapses has often created such pressure) he bats with a cool mind. I find only Rahul Dravid who had such skills. In recent times no Pakistani Player has been performing consistently except Misba. He is indeed the best bet, a dependable batsman and a cool Captain. Lots of Respect for the cool guy there. Take a bow Misbha, You are a legend.

Rashid
Oct 28, 2013 09:26am

So, Misbah was kept out because he was unwilling to participate in Inzimam

aks1987
Oct 28, 2013 09:39am

Misbah is no doubt a good batsman. But t20 final 2007 and 2011 WC semifinal both against India still haunts us like a PTSD.

Ejaz
Oct 28, 2013 10:03am

He is a rock-solid-batsman and a consistent performer which one hardly you see in any other Pakistani batsman!

Omer
Oct 28, 2013 10:14am

@Mudabbir: Very Valid! To understand your point here, one must watch that movie too.

Farhan
Oct 28, 2013 10:31am

Thanks for an honest and more-or-less impartial appraisal of Pakistan's most underestimated captain.

fahd mazhar
Oct 28, 2013 11:18am

i am so annoyed with the fact the people still disregard misbah's consistency as a captain and as a batsman, he might not be as good as Imran Khan or Dhoni, but he is the best player available doing better job as expected. extracting victories from the team who is as inconsistent as condition in their homes is applaudable. talking of facts pakistan ranking has always remain where it is today 4th, what we dont understand that we dont have inzamam, saeed anwers, amir sohails, muhammad yousaf, wasim akram. we just have 2 to 3 experienced player and 3 to 4 others who has been given pakistani cap at the age of 30. what you expect them to do. ?

Rishi
Oct 28, 2013 01:04pm

@ All Comments: This is the real problem with you all Pakistanis, never appreciate your own people and keep comparing them with your so called biased "glorious" past. This man has been calmly and composedly leading this team which was battered by every possible evil be it corruption in team or board, utlra poor leadership, religious bigotry, zero sense of sportsmanship in most of the players. This man untouched of any stupid thing mentioned above is leading this team to revival. Let's just sit back and hope that Pak Cricket again achieve what was its once rightfully, its true status in International Cricket. I hope to see Indo-Pak thrill again with same old excitement, fervour, and passion. Best Regards

CricketFan0125
Oct 28, 2013 07:03pm

Dear NFP, Great article about about Misbah-the-batsman and Misbah-the-captain. However, please allow me to pass a comment and ask a question.

Comment: With Inzimam, Yousuf and Younis in the team, Misbah-the-batsman had no place in the team and consequently Misbah-the-captain didn't fit in the team either unless Misbah were an opener, a wicket keeper-bastman, or an all rounder

Question: What do you have against Islam and religious Muslims? Were you at any point in your life molested by a moulvi uncle? (no offence intended). If such an incident did occur, your next article should be about that.

Cheers!!

mubashar
Oct 28, 2013 11:14pm

i sincerely believe Misbah is lately the best thing that has happened to pakistani cricket. but believing shehryar khan that inzamam kept misbah forcefully out of the squad is unacceptable. we all know what shehryar khan had a problem with..religion or not...inzamam was rite in walking off at oval in the test match and shehryar khan then the pcb chief was not ready for an action. the diplomat he is..he wanted it to be accepted and fought later on..what inzamam did was correct..he saved the dignity and pride of the country. no one can say we cheated we may hav lost but no one in history wud rite we cheated.. and we caught darrell hair as well..its only bcz of inzamam actions as a captain...and shehryar khan never accepted this..!! i seriously doubt shehryar khan has any solid proof for it..and for that matter the whole selection committee shud b blamed incl the board for omitting misbah!!

Uzair
Oct 29, 2013 06:23am

Each and every one of your article about cricket, brings religion into it. Can't you keep religion out of your writings on cricket? I don't want to think about my religion or any one else's religion when I am reading about cricket.