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Misbah: A great player. A leader of cricketers. A maker of men.

Updated Apr 22, 2017 10:00am


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Illustration by Feica
Illustration by Feica

On the lawns of Aitchison College, a game of schoolboy cricket is developing. Saeed is batting at number four. His proud parents casually watch on, grazing on fruits while engaging in idle chit-chat with some other respectful middle class couple.

“Saeed hits his cover drive like Brian Lara.”

“Your son reminds me of Sachin when he hits straight.”

“That hook shot reminded me of a young Ricky Ponting.”

Finally Saeed succumbs to the realities of an infant technique facing a swinging ball.

The most successful captain in the history of Pakistan cricket has announced his retirement. How will he be remembered?

“Oh dear. He leaves the ball like Virat. We better work on that with him.”

Like at most places with high expectations, the young men are pigeon-holed. That swing bowler will be the next James Anderson. The left arm version is Wasim. Everyone in Pakistan wants to be Wasim.

The match continues. Saeed watches on from the sidelines as the wicketkeeper puts down a sitter. The parents giggle as they compare the gloved child to Kamran Akmal.

Yet no one is compared to Misbah.

Misbah doesn’t have a shot. Misbah doesn’t have a signature swing of the bat. Misbah doesn’t have a slower ball. There is no relationship scandal. There is no stench of corruption.

No child wears Misbah’s number on their back. They wouldn’t even know what number he wears. He has made the most ODI runs of any player never to have made an ODI century. Both a massive success and a massive failure.

No child wants to be Misbah.

However, it matters little for what Misbah lacks, for he has what many others do not.

The gift of leadership.

The most boring of all the cricket traits. The most important of all the cricket traits.

Like the wind, you can’t touch it. But you can feel it and witness its dramatic impacts.

A gift not necessarily held by the team’s best player, but a gift held by its most important.

Courage. Honesty. Doing what’s right. Owning the moment. Enthusing your men.

These are Misbah’s hooks and cover drives. They are more powerful and longer lasting than any blow to cow corner.

Misbah doesn’t have a shot. Misbah doesn’t have a signature swing of the bat. Misbah doesn’t have a slower ball. There is no relationship scandal. There is no stench of corruption. No child wears Misbah’s number on their back. They wouldn’t even know what number he wears. He has made the most ODI runs of any player to have never made an ODI century. Both a massive success and a massive failure. No child wants to be Misbah. However, it matters little for what Misbah lacks, for he has what many others do not. The gift of leadership

August 2016.

The turf at Lord’s is experiencing a 40-year-old man doing push-ups on it during a Test match.

It has never been seen before. It’s possible that these push-ups are the most meaningful and iconic statement made in cricket in the last 20 years.

A century just made at the Home of Cricket. In itself, nothing remarkable. Top order Test batsmen are designed to make hundreds.

A leader can mark his influence by a vast array of methods. In this instance, the sound of creaking, aging pectoral muscles is louder than anything his men have heard before. The message is clear.

‘Let them come and challenge us. We can beat them. No matter what they say.’

Pakistan cricket is a monster that can never be tamed. But it can be herded. Only for short periods of time. And only by magicians.

Imran demonstrated his sorcery in 1992.

Misbah proved he was a cricketing wizard in 2016. A wizard who casts his spells by doing push-ups.

That he guided this team to a series draw in England is no small achievement. Both countries were playing to be the number one ranked team in the world. England didn’t necessarily choke. Misbah’s team didn’t necessarily dominate. But it didn’t lose the series either. Under Misbah, Pakistan rarely lost.

For his efforts during this series, Wisden was concluding that both he and his partner in crime, Younis Khan, would be recipients of the coveted Wisden Cricketer of the Year award.


Not since Greenidge and Haynes has there been a more iconic batting partnership. One that defined the spirit of a nation.

Had Younis been born in Australia, we would be comparing him to Ponting. If he had been born in England, he would have no historical peer.

Yet, no one compares Misbah to anyone. His deeds with the bat were good. But it is his deeds as a leader of men that were of greater significance.

Unfortunately, there are no statistics for leadership.

A few days after the English series ended and after some rain in the West Indies, Pakistan became number one. It united a country like no event before.

Misbah had taken a rabble and moulded them into conquerors of the world.

There are people who hate Misbah. These people probably gain pleasure from drowning puppies.

A man who hasn’t been able to play at home since 2009. A man who overcame the egos of Afridi, Malik and multiple Akmals to gel a team. A man who formed one half of the all powerful Younis-ul-Haq dynamic batting duo.

A man with values. One who stood up against the reintegration of spot-fixers — a stance that after the recent Pakistan Super League appears to have been the right one.

A man who made the hundreds when he had to.

A man who has decided to leave the game while on the other side of the world. Compare that with Sachin, who had schedules manipulated so he could retire in a place that would stroke his ego.

While cricketers can be labelled great players or even legends because of their play, Misbah is an immortal based purely on his leadership. Not because of what he did with a piece of willow in his hand, but because of the man he is.

It doesn’t matter what happens in Misbah’s final Test series.

He may make more runs than ever before. He may fail like the majority of batsmen do. Whatever comes, it doesn’t matter.

History has written Misbah’s opus. His story is not of batting accomplishments or trophies won.

It is about making young men into better men. It is about goodness and values and family and trust. A fable about leadership through adversity and of a great human gently stroking a beard.

But Misbah won’t tell you about it. His grandchildren will not hear about his legend from their grandfather. This is not who Misbah is.

Pakistan will miss Misbah. Cricket will bemoan the loss of Misbah.

Saeed and his parents are enjoying a post-match meal.

“Father, I want to be like Misbah.”

This father smiles with pride. A mother realises her son is attracted to the right values. The world has just gained a better man.

This is Misbah’s legacy.

A great player. A leader of cricketers.

A maker of men.

Dennis Freedman is a cricket writer and host of Can’t Bowl Can’t Throw Cricket Show heard on Australian radio and globally via iTunes. Find him at or @DennisCricket_

Published in Dawn, EOS, April 16th, 2017


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (41)

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Rizwan Apr 16, 2017 10:27am

Brilliant dennis.

Farj Apr 16, 2017 11:06am

Wow.....An epic tribute.....A tear just rolled down my eye....

muhammaD NOUMAN Apr 16, 2017 12:06pm

Misbah,the great leader you are my role model.God bless you as you give Pakistan the victories and happiness which we never admire and appreciate.we would surely miss you ,not for your "took tuk" but your legacy as a captain of a proud nation.

Tj Apr 16, 2017 12:44pm

"Misbah doesn’t have a shot. Misbah doesn’t have a signature swing of the bat."

I would slightly disagree on that. Misbah has QUITE a signature swing of the bat..He has the knack of hitting LOOOOOONG sixes in Tests. Of all the players who have played test cricket till this time, he stands 13th on the list of those who have hit most number of sixes in test cricket.

waseem Apr 16, 2017 01:05pm

wow...reading that gave me chills specially the ending... i have always been a huge misbah fan since he joined the team and i always mourned the fact that he has never been given the respect he deserved.. But people who understand cricket, people who value the vlaues will always remember this upright, honest and trustworthy Legend .. Thank you Dennis ...Like always it was pleasure to read your piece.

anon Apr 16, 2017 01:21pm

Its unfortunate Misbah did not get to play in Pakistani National Team due to egos of some. However, when he came and performed, everyone regretted why was he not playing earlier. In any other country Misbah would have started playing in the national team under the age of 25. Pakistan should consider itself lucky that Misbah still had hunger for the game at an age when many players are thinking of planning their retirement.

Ramal Khan Apr 16, 2017 01:27pm

What a man, what a leader (Misbah) and what an article !!! Bravo

Dennis Freedman Apr 16, 2017 02:20pm

@waseem Many thanks boss for the kind comments. Misbah is one of my all time favourite humans.

Umair Apr 16, 2017 02:37pm

I was among those people who hated Misbah because of that T20 Final and than World cup semi final . I seriously loathed that guy but after all that happened in our cricket. We needed a misbah a boring non flamboyant type of leader. You could always rely on him to score how slow they might come. by the end of his retirement i was a huge Misbah fan and his partnership with the other great Younis deserves all the appraisal in the world. We will miss them both.

Ali Apr 16, 2017 03:25pm

Great read. The guy's leadership and integrity was next to none. A huge loss to Pak cricket.

mansoor Apr 16, 2017 04:00pm

Thanks Dennis. Misbah is an icon far bigger than any of his peers. Just wait 6 months and we will all know what leadership means esp in Pakistan Cricket.

faisal Apr 16, 2017 04:23pm

Beautifully said comments. Misbah is a legend who some people loved to hate. He gave you success pride clean image and no scandal and haters hated him more for this. Beautiful person, Great leader a man with class. Misbah we will miss you and I hope you are given a good position within PCB for the sake of Pakistan cricket. Salute to you SIR.

Qaisar mahmood farukh Apr 16, 2017 04:40pm

Undoubtedly Misbah would be remembered due to its tireless efforts. He wasn't only a cool and calm captain in the history of Pakistan but also put his efforts to high the morale of cricket team.

Fiz Apr 16, 2017 04:48pm

Misbah is calm, consistent and dependable. Can anyone match that? I wish my child to be like that. But then he has his own personality traits and I can't deny him that.

Ahmad hassan Apr 16, 2017 04:51pm

The way he led Pakistani team not only in ground but also off field; that is enough to show his capabilities. Imagine what he would have done if he had been a captain of some other team. People will realize his dignity once he is gone. Freedman! This is the best article I ever read about Misbah.

aleem Apr 16, 2017 04:54pm

Brilliant man Misbah and equally brilliant tribute. The achievements of this great cricketer and leader are much more than even the great Imran Khan. Misbah is a humble guy of few words, difficult attributes to find these days. He has served his country well in difficult circumstances. Thank you Misbah.

Khurram Apr 16, 2017 05:01pm

Beautifully​ written Truth

imtiaz hydari Apr 16, 2017 05:08pm

what a wonderful tribute. I salute Misbah and Yunis for being Misbah and Yunis!!

Masood Hussain Apr 16, 2017 06:00pm

Wonderfully written about a wonderful cricket leader.

M.N.Murching Apr 16, 2017 06:07pm

Misbah's contribution to Pakistan cricket is undoubted, and deserves admiration. However the one stroke of Misbah's during World Cup (20/20) final will be always come to our minds in India.

rathore Apr 16, 2017 06:20pm

A superb article that captures the very essence of the man, and of his contribution to Pakistan and to Cricket.

Sabahat Ali Apr 16, 2017 06:24pm

wonderful article..

SALMAN Apr 16, 2017 07:50pm

Hands down! the most emotional tribute to the one amazing legend. Been his fan since 2007 and he made us prouder as the days passed by. Thank you Dennis for the wonderful words. Though Misbah deserves all of this but this is something special for his fans too :)

RIZ Apr 16, 2017 10:27pm

Misbah is unique Pakistani fans will remember him to his success in test cricket but his Indian fans also remember him they way he batted in first World T20 final where almost winning the game and give it back to India (which starts IPL) and his batting in 2011 WC semi final where he made sure that India secures the win by not scoring runs.

PakCanuck Apr 16, 2017 10:43pm

Pakistanis go for flash and Misbah does not have that. They prefer that someone comes and play a few balls, get 15-20 runs as opposed to someone who play 100-150 balls and score 40-60 runs. In test cricket, runs matter and not the flash. I agree that had Misbah and Younis would have been playing for Australia or England, they would have got so much more respect. They have played the bulk of their games outside Pakistan, yet performed admiringly!!

Thank you to both of them

Shoaib Apr 16, 2017 11:35pm

He was one of the most boring and negative captain. Who got lucky with some wins in UAE. He never led from the front and hardly played any match winning innings. also worse that he never nurtured any talent in to great players for Pakistan. An extremely over rated captain.

usman Apr 22, 2017 12:09pm

a great player is one who wins for the country that counts forever that mark in a whole world, for that all teams competes in a tournament to win, like we won in 1992, there are all bunch of close minded whose thoughts are confined between peoples like their minds. I don't appreciate Misbah...........

Akhil Apr 22, 2017 12:24pm

After Imran Khan, he is Pakistan's best leader. Sadly he was selected much late in the team, else he would have been among the greatest. He is similar to M S Dhoni.

Akhil Apr 22, 2017 12:26pm

@usman The result may not be there, but one has to give him credit that he has led during a time when no country is coming and playing in Pakistan, depriving a huge chance to practice and improve.

Dr liaqat Apr 22, 2017 12:43pm

Misbah! Naam hi kafi hai :)

Sourabh Apr 22, 2017 05:52pm

what a great player. salute.

Concerned Apr 22, 2017 07:08pm

Misbah deserves such praise as he hang his boots... good article.

israr Apr 22, 2017 08:18pm

i think more than a good test player at the moment he is nothing else, he came in as brilliant t20 batsman a real match winner however with time he is only a test player, never been a leader and surely never been a maker of men, he actually with his slow batting destroyed careers of players like u akmal, ahmad shehzad, shoaib maqsood and many other batmen, he was given two top class alrounders in bhatti and anwar ali but he destroyed them by his indifferent approach to play them and not play them ... sorry totally disagree with leader and maker of men comments

salman Apr 23, 2017 06:16am

Dilemma of the land is that status co is regarded as a win. Unimaginative defensive captain, nurturing mediocrity and selfishness, primitive batting approach, yes man to a dysfunctional unprofessional board are the hall mark of the career. Even in the last series against the weakest team in the world please look at the field placing, pathetic approach - then honestly judge. Praising second rate ordinary accomplishments is not away to build a team or a nation and then wonder what is wrong!!

Kamran Apr 23, 2017 11:20am

If Misbah is such a great leader why Pakistan is languishing at the bottom of all the three forms of cricket?

Umer Apr 23, 2017 01:55pm

It would be better to include some more of his quotes and inside details of moments that we have not seen on the big screen.

Mani Apr 23, 2017 05:19pm

Misbah is not all the Good Samaritan, leader of men you make him to be. He was a horrible one day captain and after the disasterous World Cup 2015, he recommended Azhar Ali as his replacement to PCB. It was a senseless call. Azhar did not even merit a spot in the team let alone be captain. Inspite of what some would say, there were options in Younis, Malik and Sarfaraz. But it had to be Azhar because everyone was blaming Misbah's captaincy for the failures and he wanted to prove them wrong. Alas, Azhar went on to become the worse captain in the history of Pak cricket. Misbah's captaincy exonerated and like most of Misbah's pressers after a defeat, the blame for the losses was all team and nothing about captaincy. After much damage, common sense prevailed and Azhar was removed. Misbah is the only one in the team with an education, a business degree and he put it to good use to further his selfish schemes.

Gul Faraz UAE Apr 23, 2017 07:28pm

Misbah left is better, he did not grow his VC, he unfortunately in 2015 when he lost w/c odi 2015 he recommended his buddies from Sui Northern player, not belong to ODI & outdated from 2013 non performer, Misbah was key planner to recommended to chairman PCB to Azhar as ODI Capt which is illegal & PCB chairman reversed this and right man right captain as Sarfarz. 2nd Misbah never introduced aggresive cricket, he stamped tuk tuk and in 2011 w/c Mahali match Pakistan lost 30 runs due to tuk tuk of Misbah, can he explain his innings, and Pakistan lost, he was longest captain never won Pak to any w/c ODI. Misbah left sooner is better for Pak team, presently we want mobile, laptop fast and hard hitting cricket, his performance in NZ and Aust were nil. He played for himself & benefit for his family during tour, whereas other players are not allowed families, his conduct about expenses should investigated by FIA, how he made money by misusing his power, he is an debt to Pak exchequer.

Ram Apr 23, 2017 10:35pm

Gentleman Cricketer ......from Hindu, Hindustan

AXH Apr 24, 2017 07:45am

"A great player. A leader of cricketers. A maker of men."

You nailed it in just three phrases Dennis, thank you!!

From HearT Apr 24, 2017 12:25pm

Seriously!!.. so the utter lack of talent in pakistan.