With the loss to Australia in the third quarter final of the ongoing 2015 ICC World Cup, the ordinary journey of Pakistan has come to an end. The Green Team was nowhere near its best, and that was reflected in its campaign. But along with that, two magnificent careers also come to a close. Careers, that have motivated an entire generation in Pakistan. Careers that have brought glory to Pakistan. And most significantly, careers that have entertained cricket lovers for a long time. Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq have bid adieu to the ODI format, but shall continue to play T20’s and Tests respectively.
Shahid Afridi’s career is nothing short of a typical melodramatic movie! The dazzling Pathan has scores of records to his name. For more than 17 years, he held the record of the fastest ODI ton (37 balls), before it was broken by Corey Anderson, and more recently by AB De Villiers. Making his debut as a clean shaven 16 year old, Afridi also made the record of being the youngest to get to an ODI ton.
It would be his lusty blows which would be dearly missed. His batting showed glimpses of what sheer power meant. Viewers have simply fallen in love with his meaty strikes over deep midwicket. No ground probably was big enough for Boom Boom Afridi, as they call him with affection. His sixes redefined the term “humungous hits”. Against arch rivals India, he was even more ferocious. Afridi struck fear in the hearts of not just the Indian bowlers, but also the viewers. His epic 45 ball ton against the Indians at Kanpur was one such instance.
More than anything else, cricket lovers will miss his famous celebration, with both the arms vertically raised, and a million dollar smile lighting up the celebration. It would be fair to say that Afridi was the most stylish cricketer of his era. His ability to attract the crowd was simply phenomenal. It was a common sight in Pakistan and UAE, that as soon as Afridi was dismissed, spectators would vacate the stadium, in the span of a few minutes. Such was the love for Afridi! Another aspect which made everyone love Afridi was that he always had cordial ties with the opponents on the field. Very rarely did viewers witness Afridi fighting with his opponents. His passion for the game and his indulgence in it was simply awesome.
Afridi also holds the record of being the only player to take a 5 for and a score a fifty in the same match on three separate occasions. Math winning skills don’t get more comprehensive than this! He also holds the record for winning the highest number of Man of the Match awards for a Pakistani with 32. Recently, Afridi got to 8000 ODI runs, and without a doubt has the highest strike rate among all his contemporaries. His 395 ODI wickets are more than enough to certify him as a complete match winner!
On the other hand, Misbah-ul-Haq was a mellowed down individual. Very rarely, did viewers get the sight of Misbah getting animated. His calm mind and composure calmed down every Pakistani nerve. He might not have been a superstar as Shahid Afridi, but his services for Pakistani Cricket are unparalleled. It is famously said in Pakistan that when Misbah plays well, the nation sleeps well!
In the last few years, Misbah was the backbone of the much ridiculed Pakistani batting lineup. With wickets tumbling around him, it was Misbah, who guided the team towards safety. Misbah, might not have been the most flamboyant batsman, but his technique was rock solid. So solid that between 2007 to 2013, Misbah was never clean bowled in ODI’s! Wow! That’s something special!
Misbah though, hardly found support from the other batsmen. That is evident in the fact that Misbah has 42 half centuries and zero hundreds. Now that’s a highly unwanted record. But his ability as a match winner was never under the scanner. In successful run chases, Misbah averages a mounting 67.95. That speaks volumes about his character and calm mindset. Under Misbah’s leadership, Pakistan won the 2012 Asia Cup.
Misbah was the ideal example of the phrase “lone warrior” for cricket viewers. He was a character with nerves of steel. He taught cricket viewers the significance of leading from the front and setting benchmarks. Misbah-ul-Haq in several ways was the epitome of consistency and resilience.
It will be an impossible task for the Pakistan Cricket Board to find the ideal replacements of Misbah and Afridi. Both have had illustrious careers, and have tremendously inspired cricket lovers. They have been examples of true match winners. Cricket as a sport was fortunate to have the two gentlemen. The two have surely lightened up the term “ cricket”. But for now, they are GONE. Only an inspiring legacy remains!
Thank you Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq for all the lovely memories!