Misbah-ul-Haq has been in the form of his life in the last couple of years. Yet he has to be cautious in his approach instead of batting with elegance and authority thanks to an inconsistent batting set-up around him. Aayush Puthran looks back at the unusual career of the Pakistani batsman and explains why it deserves better.
Just as the world prepares itself to witness a 40-year old Sachin Tendulkar bring an end to one of the most glorious careers in cricketing history, not too far away, another veteran player has just hit the peak of his career — Misbah-ul-Haq. Just a few days younger than Tendulkar, the Pakistan skipper is aging with much contrast to the grace and form of the Little Master.
Misbah had earned the wrath of a major section of the Pakistan fans after his failure to secure two important wins over the arch-rivals India in the ICC World T20 2007 and the World Cup 2011, Even in the following matches his slow-paced innings came under heavy criticism. Yet his responsible performance in lifting Pakistan in recent months is a testimony to the value he has brought and the perceptions too have taken a u-turn.
Misbah’s case has been different. While he was an ordinary cricketer till the mid-30s in a country that produced extraordinary talent, he has reworked his game to peak at an unusual age. Currently, he looks unfazed against the mightiest of attacks across formats. He has stood firm despite the consistent failures of the other batsmen in the team. Much like the Tendulkar of 1990s, Misbah, today, stands as his country’s lone biggest hope in batting. What differs is the changing dynamics of their country’s cricket in their respective times.
Tendulkar came into the team when a draw was worth a celebration as victory. Misbah walked into the side when Pakistan when Saeed Anwar had retired and Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf were fading out.
Unfortunately for him, even as the leaves of his career will begin to shed, he can’t show the true artistry of his batting. He has to be cautious and guarded, as the rest in the line-up are likely to fail. He can’t go into a match all charged up, wishing to dominate. He has to maintain sanity and a cool clever head, as dominance is a luxury not meant for him.
Probably the best thing that can happen to him from here on is to be able to win matches for Pakistan on a more regular basis against top teams rather than just bailing the side out of embarrassing situations and leaving them with mediocre results.
The fact that his century against the mighty South Africans in the first Test helped Pakistan win the match convincingly in the first Test at Abu Dhabi, should have been a good sign for Misbah to start the revival process. If such victories don’t repeat on a more regular basis, it will be an unfortunate career for Misbah, one that deserved more glory for his efforts.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)