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Misbah-ul-Haq vs Virat Kohli: Experience vs Maturity in India-Pakistan’s Asia Cup 2014 clash

Both the team's batting revolves around their respective captains © Getty Images
Both the team’s batting revolves around their respective captains © Getty Images

As arch-rivals India and Pakistan face-off in the Asia Cup 2014 encounter, the respective captains of the team are in roaring form. Abhijit Banare looks at the numbers of the two and how they stack up as captains of the team.

Ever since Virat Kohli was named as captain of the Indian team due to MS Dhoni’s side strain, the interest of fans and critics has multiplied. Kohli had lead India in a full series against Zimbabwe as well but it was looked upon as an experience than anything else. Dhoni’s ‘defensive’ captaincy and the series of defeats in ODIs and Tests away from home have garnered criticism from all sides. The ‘Captain Cool’ or the ‘calm’ approach of Dhoni doesn’t inspire anymore. On the other side of the border, another cool customer — Misbah-ul-Haq is busy progressing ahead carrying the entire team’s expectations on his shoulder. In the run up to this clash, there’s a lot of optimism surrounding Kohli’s captaincy and a redemption feel to Misbah leading Pakistan’s campaign.

This encounter is a test of a fine balancing act. It involves a mix of managing the pressure, leading the side and keep the purple patch with the bat going.

One of the novel aspects of Kohli’s captaincy is his temperament on the field. We are used to watching the volatile batsman pumping his fists, jumping high in the air after crossing past the non-strikers end completing a ton. And at times, the expletives after the century only reaffirm his brash personality. But on the field as well, Kohli celebrates the wicket but seldom does he lose his temper at a bad over from the bowler. And that temperament is much more essential considering the way the pacers have been performing. This attitude of Kohli could go a long way in making him a better captain. There have been instances in the past across teams, where the most talented players often fail to perform as a captain. They end up expecting the members around them to be at the same level as them. Not many would disagree that this was one of the reason which distinguished Sachin Tendulkar — the captain and the batsman. Looking at the pacers India have, there are bound to be the odd angry expressions on the captain’s face, but Kohli has managed it well so far. Against Pakistan it will be put to test once again.

In contrast, Misbah’s resigned look explains that he has seen it all. From being criticised for continuous defeats in Tests and ODIs, and after all the selection, coach hurdles, Misbah has finally managed to stitch together a team who have put on some results. With the multiple resources he has in the bowling, Misbah hasn’t been under pressure on the field and has calmly rotated his bowlers. It’s the batting where he has had to keep performing match after match tirelessly.

When we speak of batting there is not much difference looking at the tremendous form they are in. When they come into bat, it almost seems as though a Tendulkar-like burden is thrust upon them. And looking at their numbers, they thrive at the expectations and enjoy the pressure.

Let’s look at some key numbers comparing Misbah and Kohli in their batting since January 1, 2013.

No  Player M R Avg 50s 100s
1 Virat Kohli 41 1743 56.22 9 6
2 Kumar Sangakkara 29 1507 65.52 11 4
3 Misbah-ul-Haq 36 1446 53.55 16 0
4 Rohit Sharma 35 1375 45.83 9 2
5 Shikhar Dhawan 32 1365 47.06 5 5

Kohli is comfortably ahead in terms of number of runs, but when it comes to averages, Misbah is close enough at 53.55. The consistency of their scoring is what makes them the most dependable batsman.

Now let us compare how the two fare away from home. In fact there’s no change in Misbah’s numbers since Pakistan have played away from home, Kohli has been in a great nick even away from home. On expected lines, the number of away matches Kohli has played is lesser than Misbah, but he still averages a touch more than the Pakistan skipper.

No Player M R Avg 50s 100s
1 Misbah-ul-Haq 36 1446 53.55 16 0
2 Mohammad Hafeez 35 1329 44.3 4 5
3 Virat Kohli 25 1027 54.05 4 4
4 Shikhar Dhawan 23 922 43.9 3 3
5 Ahmed Shehzad 23 887 38.56 6 2

Now comes the critical part of their batting performance i.e. their performance in wins. And it’s here that Kohli takes the cake. Kohli’s brilliance in run-chases are known to many, but his performance overall in wins is way above Misbah. The Pakistan skipper is languishing at 11th spot when it comes to contributing in wins even though his average in wins is well above his career average.

No Player M R Avg 50s 100s
1 Virat Kohli 23 1111 74.06 4 5
2 Shikhar Dhawan 18 1079 63.47 4 5
3 Kumar Sangakkara 16 1048 87.33 6 4
4 Rohit Sharma 19 1037 64.81 7 2
5 Mohammad Hafeez 17 784 60.3 2 4
11 Misbah-ul-Haq 17 574 47.83 1 7

There is a marked difference between the two in their batting styles. Kohli is the brash authoritative batsman, while Misbah ambles across sluggishly at the start and then surges ahead once he puts up a steady start.

So overall, when it comes to batting, Misbah is right up there neck to neck with Kohli. While India have often boasted of a better batting attack than Pakistan in recent times, the equation now hangs in balance. On one hand, the new Indian middle-order came apart against Sri Lanka, Pakistan’s batting is known to dig its own grave and jump into it even before the opposition pushes them. In such a situation, the batting of both teams will revolve around their respective captains. On a positive note, India have Shikhar Dhawan firing at the top, for Pakistan, Umar Akmal is giving good impetus to the innings towards the end.

The one aspect which could very well make the difference is how long can they bat. Misbah comes in at No 5 and has 16 fifties to his name whereas Kohli has converted 6 of those into centuries of which five came in winning cause. While one is running for most fifties, the others just doesn’t seem to stop scoring centuries. Come Sunday and it will be a test of character for both the players and will be interesting to see whether Misbah’s experience triumphs over Kohli’s maturity.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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