And so it begins. Or rather, so it resumes.
Roughly two years after Misbah the captain, the leader, the laggard hung his boots, he is back — and this time, bigger and stronger than ever. His stature was such that no one was going to question him anyway but with the dual coaching and selection role, kiss goodbye to any dissent.
Misbah’s way or the highway it will be, even if he insists otherwise.
Like the man in the highest of office, Misbah is a highly polarising figure; you either love him with all your heart or hate him with a passion. There is no middle ground.
I’ll come clean and admit that I have never been a fan of what Misbah the cricketer became. And that’s putting it lightly, in fact, very lightly.
Not many would remember that Misbah, at the start of his career had seemed a genuinely exciting talent, a glimpse of which came in 2002 when he hit the mighty Shane Warne for three sixes in Kenya in a partially washed out ODI.
He couldn’t break the Inzamamul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf stranglehold on the middle order in the early 2000s, and remained on the peripheries until finally becoming a regular fixture of the team years later.
But the second coming of Misbah saw him become far more restrained. Perhaps, circumstances dictated his new style, but overly restrained and cautious he was, of that there is no doubt — and that’s how I do not like my cricketers to be, especially the captains.
Ramiz Raja summed up his style of captaincy perfectly, saying that Misbah lays siege around his opponent in the wait for an ambush. He pounces only when the enemy makes a mistake.
Shoaib Akhtar, too, was right when he said that Misbah’s style may have produced some success, but it is not the Pakistani brand of cricket. Right from Abdul Hafeez Kardar to the now-prime minister to anyone else who came before, in between and after, no one strategised like Misbah. He was an anomaly.
Win or lose, every Pakistan captain not named Misbah grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck. Misbah put an arm around the enemy’s shoulder and gently choked them into submission.
Read: The age of Misbah
Having said all that is unwanted about this Mianwali-born, his weakness is also his strength when formats are reversed. I’m going to harp on the same string because the argument warrants it.
Misbah is the most successful captain Pakistan has ever produced. Under him, Pakistan became the top-ranked Test side in the world. And guess what? The team is now ranked seventh in the world. In fact, of all three formats, Pakistan’s ranking is the worst in the five-day format. The teams below them are the likes of West Indies and Bangladesh and Afghanistan — hardly formidable sides in the format.
With Pakistan ranking the lowest in Tests, the next ODI World Cup four years away, and the team already being the top-ranked side in T20Is, it becomes clear which format deserves our greatest attention for the next few years.
The inaugural two-year-long World Test Championship has also just kicked off, and with Misbah at the helm, like it or not, Pakistan stands the greatest chance of doing something significant.
He may be tuk-tuk, but tuk-tuk is exactly the need of the hour. And there is no better man for that brand of cricket than Misbah.