Misbah-ul-Haq defies age and criticism to prove he is best man to lead Pakistan

Misbah-ul-Haq has vowed to continue playing international cricket © Getty Images

Dubai: Oct 19, 2013

Last month Misbah-ul-Haq was facing calls to be sacked as captain after Pakistan suffered embarrasing defeats in a one-day and Test series against minnows Zimbabwe.

That came on the back of Pakistan’s 3-0 humiliation at the hands of the number one ranked Test team South Africa and then a first round exit from the Champions Trophy in England added fuel to the fire.

Former players and fans were gunning for Misbah’s head, often criticised for a defensive approach — both in batting and captaincy.

But Thursday’s seven-wicket win over South Africa completed his three-years at the helm in style as the 39-year-old proved he still is the best man to lead Pakistan.

He is fitter than most of his younger team-mates, and is the leading scorer in one-day (961 in 21 matches) and of his country in Tests (480 in six) this year.

Misbah held together Pakistan’s batting in Abu Dhabi, scoring a robust 100 in the first innings and then overcame the early jitters with an imperious 28 to seal a victory.

On a personal front too, a three-figure mark was a big relief for Misbah.

“It’s really important,” said Misbah.

“I think there’s nothing more special than a 100 for a batsman, so that was really something special that it was made against the number one team in the world.”

But despite his excellent form and exemplary fitness, questions are asked: for how long Misbah will continue to lead Pakistan.

While retaining Misbah as captain earlier this month, Pakistan Cricket Board’s chairman Najam Sethi posed that very question: “why should Misbah be replaced and who is the choice?”

But there remains questions as to who will lead Pakistan in the 2015 World Cup?

Former Pakistan captain turned commentator Ramiz Raja said Misbah’s fitness and form will hold the key.

“I don’t know whether he will survive until the 2015 World Cup or not. It would be tough and his age will always come into question, there will be a lot of pressure but his fitness and performance will be the key,” Raja told AFP.

Sportsmen have prolonged their careers through commitment, a key example in Pakistan cricket was Imran Khan who led them to their only World Cup title in 1992 just a few months short of 40.

Misbah will be a year older but seems to have left other captaincy contenders — Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan — far behind.

While Malik, Hafeez and Afridi are struggling to keep their places, Younis’s one-day career seems all but over after he was left out of Pakistan’s squad for South Africa one-dayers.

Former Pakistan batsman Basit Ali said Misbah has revived Pakistan after the 2010 spot-fixing case which ended in bans on then captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer.

“I think Misbah has done a good job after what happened in 2010,” said Basit, who is now the coach of  Misbah’s domestic team Sui Northern Gas.

Basit said Misbah has inherited the weakest Pakistan team.

“Just take into account that Misbah inherited the weakest ever Pakistan team,” said Basit.

“I think fans must give him space and time to decide on his career. He has led with example in the post spot-fixing era.”

Misbah himself vows to carry on.

“I have no plans to retire. I don’t know why people bring my age into question, why not talk about my fitness and form which are both good. I will continue as long as I am doing well and am fit.”

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