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Cricket comes home: Never seen this kind of support before, says Misbah

Updated May 25, 2015

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Fans enjoy the first T20 between Pakistan and Zimbabwe at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on May 22, 2015. — AFP/File
Fans enjoy the first T20 between Pakistan and Zimbabwe at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on May 22, 2015. — AFP/File

LAHORE: “The enthusiasm of the crowd in Lahore during the first Twenty20 was unparalleled. It didn’t seem like it was the revival of international cricket in Pakistan, it was as if the team was playing its debut.”

These were Pakistan’s Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s words when asked about the ongoing home series with Zimbabwe. In a conversation with journalists Ahmer Naqvi and Hassan Cheema at ‘Books n Beans’ in Lahore, Misbah said he had only witnessed such an atmosphere in India.

“I have never seen this kind of support before, the crowd was enjoying and appreciating each and every run taken by the team,” said Misbah.

Spectators cheer their team as they attend the first T20 match between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Lahore. — AFP
Spectators cheer their team as they attend the first T20 match between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Lahore. — AFP

In the six years Pakistan has not been able to play international cricket on home ground, the team felt an absence of getting the crucial home advantage, said Misbah.

“Home advantage is huge because you are aware of the pitch and other conditions. We have seen the example of New Zealand in this year’s World Cup; they lost the cup when they played their only game outside New Zealand.”

But the cricketers felt somewhat at home in UAE and Abu Dhabi.

“We felt that we had some sort of home advantage while playing in UAE and Abu Dhabi because we had played so many matches there and never lost a Test series in UAE.”

‘Bowling specialist’ Misbah

Little do people know that ace batsman Misbah was once considered a bowling specialist with yorkers being his strength during his early years, when he played ‘taped-ball cricket’.

Misbah recounted one of his childhood memories, when he was wrongly accused of ball tampering.

Misbah-ul-Haq gestures during a practice session in Adelaide. — AFP/File
Misbah-ul-Haq gestures during a practice session in Adelaide. — AFP/File

“During a match, I managed to get a couple of dot balls for my team. But as soon as I delivered the third ball the umpire declared it a no-ball.

“On my fourth delivery, he once again signaled a no-ball. Upon questioning the reason behind the decision, he said I had tampered the ball. On my fifth ball, I made sure I stepped well before the crease.

“The ‘umpire’ then declared it wide.

“After this, he was beaten up by the team since we were more in number,” he said, smiling as he reminisced days long gone.

Talking to Dawn, Misbah revealed that playing international cricket was more of an afterthought. “It was pure passion when I used to play with my cousins; I've played a lot of taped-ball cricket in Bhakar, Mianwali and Layyah.

“I decided to play international cricket only after completing my masters,” he said.

‘Bhabhi ki qasam chakka maaro’

Slogan-chanting is a normal practice among spectators that throng stadiums; but most believe their chants never make it to the playing crease. Apparently, they do.

Misbah shared an interesting account of a Test match against Sri Lanka. Pakistan was leading the series 1-0 and the match was headed towards a draw.

“I had played two to three overs defensively. All of a sudden I heard a Pathan fan from the crowd shouting in Urdu.

Spectators cheer their team as they attend the first T20 match between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Lahore. — AFP
Spectators cheer their team as they attend the first T20 match between Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Lahore. — AFP

Chakka maaro tumhe apni sab se qeemti cheez ka qasam, chakka maaro tumhe bhabhi ka qasam, chakka maaro (Please hit a six for your wife),” Misbah said, laughing as he recalled the incident.

Talking about new-age cricketers, Misbah said their focus had shifted towards monetary benefits, which he said was killing the passion for the game.

“I spent my own money in the early days of my career, a time when people would think it was impossible for someone from a small town like Mianwali to represent Pakistan,” Misbah said.

‘Empower the captain, coach’

Misbah said the selection committee had complete control on who to pick, with the captain having only an advisory role.

Shahid Afridi, left, offers batting to Elton Chigumbura captain of guest team Zimbabwe after winning toss at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. — AP
Shahid Afridi, left, offers batting to Elton Chigumbura captain of guest team Zimbabwe after winning toss at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. — AP

“They only ask for the captain's opinion and it is up to them to select the team; the captain himself has no authority,” remarked Pakistan's Test captain.

“If we want good results we need to empower the captain and the coach as well.”

Responding to a question from a fan, who requested Misbah play a farewell game in Lahore against Zimbabwe, Misbah politely voiced his disagreement: “I don't think it is right to come out of retirement only to play a farewell match.”

According to Misbah, Pakistan needs to start a cricket league on the pattern of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

“PCB is considering initiating a league from next year, which will be a step in the right direction to groom the talent we have,” Misbah said.

Misbah shared with Dawn that he is indecisive about his future in coaching.