It was the year 2010. Pakistan cricket team, touring England, has plunged into an utter mess. Exactly a year after the image tarnishing terror attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team at the entrance of the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore, another tragedy struck like a lightning – the spot-fixing scandal.
Three top cricketers – Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt – were arrested for links with bookies and later convicted. Mazhar Majeed, the fixer, caused a damage so bad, Pakistan cricket was left in shock and disgust.
A keenly fought Test series which was underway in England suddenly became the centrepiece of controversy which snapped off the careers of an established fast bowler, a prodigy and the LEADER of the Pakistan cricket team.
What does the future hold?
This was the question lurking in the minds of the experts and fans back in the country.
Whether on the battlefield or in cricket, when such catastrophe strikes that threaten to destroy the reputation of the sports in the country;, creates complete chaos, only a seasoned head can rescue everyone out of the mess.
From this emerged Misbah ul Haq.
The Disaster of 2007 & Growth
Let’s not talk about numbers. A few players don’t need stats to be defined. Until 2010, Misbah’s greatest claim to fame was a bitter-sweet event (More bitter, less sweet to be precise). Pakistan had stunned everyone by reaching the finals of the World T20 and Misbah ul Haq was the top performer for the team. However, just when everyone was hailing him, Misbah, committed an error after almost bringing Pakistan to the doorsteps of an ICC trophy.
An ill-judged scoop shot in the final off Joginder Sharma robbed his country of the World cup. However, Misbah continued to grow as a cricketer. Successful Test series against India made him somewhat regular in the middle order but still unsure of his place in the team.
Meanwhile, on 17 July 2010, the PCB appointed Butt as captain of the Pakistani Test squad in place of Shahid Afridi. Butt was the brightest hope to lead the Pakistan for a prolonged period. The optimism was very high after 4 players had already taken and dropped the leadership mantle since January 2009. However, it was meant to be a wrong assumption as what happened after few month is very well documented.
The PCB had no one to choose from, logically. The likes of Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik had already given up the responsibility after earlier with the rest of the emerging name young and inexperienced. PCB, at the time, had only one option – to go with Misbah-ul-Haq. This decision put Pakistan on a course of recovery and also was a reward for the then 36 year old for his relentless dedication.
Misbah was appointed amidst great controversy. His immediate job was to resurrect things and he did it in great fashion. Pakistan’s first away tour ended up in a historic win over New Zealand. Later, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh all tasted dirt. In early 2012, led his men to a 3-0 clean sweep against England in their home away from home UAE. Misbah’s credentials were now established as the leader and Pakistan were finally out if the dark past completely. England was then the World No.1 side in the world.
The vision was now set on perfection.
The Saviour Among Gods
Talk about captains in Pakistan Cricket – Abdul Kardar, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis Inzamam ul Haq – are some of the names that come to the mind. The most similar quality these men had was the power and authority they held over the teammates. The players whom they liked were the favourites and the player who could not grab their eyeballs were left to wait for their chances. Their decision was the ultimate.
Abdul Kardar holds his special place for his monarchy, Imran Khan was all about the charisma, Miandad was the mean machine, Wasim and Waqar showed great flair while Inzamam formed a respect worthy side.
But among all these immortal names Misbah ul Haq stands apart with a great difference. He was never harshly vocal and always soft spoken, did not enforce his ideals on anyone and was all about patience. He had the ability to manage any lot of men that were entrusted to him. With the bat, he won the respect standing alone and bailing his team out from the verge of collapse with match saving knocks.
The master’s degree in business management must have helped him a lot. The men in his team kept changing, some due to lack of form and others due to lack of commitment. He never was blessed enough to have a stable team. The abovementioned facts also meant he could never build his dream team like the skippers in the past did during their time by putting together and grooming upcoming talents.
By looking at his entire captaincy career, his only job all these years was to act as a saviour of the team more than anything else.
The Seeds Have Been Sown:
Misbah led Pakistan in 53 Test matches and won 24, drew 11 and lost 14 of them. Misbah’s winning percentage stands at 45.28. This includes ten series victories, the best among any Pakistani skipper. This feat takes him ahead of Imran Khan who now is statistically the second best Pakistan captained with 16 wins out of the 48 matches.
As 2017 started, the retirement looked was on the cards. Despite beating boys half his age in military style fitness camps; at 42, it was certainly understood that Misbah cannot continue forever. The announcement obviously was around the corner.
That being said, most importantly, Misbah ul Haq has successfully overseen the rebuilding phase of a dishonoured average side who went on to hold the Test mace a few months back. It took time, seven years to be exact but the time was one of the most critical in Pakistan cricket’s history.
And, for all the responsibility he carried on his shoulder, Misbah timed his retirement perfectly, keeping one eye on the future. Pakistan, in recent times, has seen an influx of wonderful talents. He could have retired a year ago, or maybe a couple of years ago but perhaps he thought the names like Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz needed him around. Now, that everything seems settled, he ready to enjoy retirement.