Age - Not a number but a concern for Misbah, Pakistan
Misbah-ul-Haq and MS Dhoni have a similar approach towards cricket. Both love to take the game towards the final overs, something which often baffles their fans, but they derive tremendous pleasure by batting under nail-biting situations. But, while Misbah creates enormous pressure on his teammates by playing too many dot balls, Dhoni enjoys the game in the death overs, hitting sixes at will, and pulling off spectacular chases for Team India.
Misbah was the most consistent batsman for his side in the recently concluded ODI series against West Indies. He scored three consecutive half-centuries that guided Pakistan to a series win. In the entire ODI series, it was Misbah’s job to resurrect the innings after a poor show from the openers. Those were valuable innings, but one can’t ignore the pace at which they were scored. Pakistan managed to win matches because they were chasing paltry scores and their skipper took ample time to shape his innings. But at the same time, he created a lot of pressure on the other batsmen by playing too many dot balls. With Misbah’s approach, Pakistan would have a tough time against formidable opponents. And the major concern for Pakistan and Misbah at the moment is – the age factor. Not just only Misbah (39), Pakistan have been depending too much on aged players like Saeed Ajmal (35) and Shahid Afridi (33). While Ajmal, who made his debut at the age of 30, is still one of the world’s most threatening bowlers, Afridi on the other hand has been a major disappointment for his team and his fans considering his inconsistency in all formats of the game.
It is sad to see that Pakistan cricket still revolves a lot around Afridi, who is the most inconsistent all-rounder of the modern era. When he made his comeback against the Windies in the first ODI match (76, 7/12), everybody took it differently. But as he has done on numerous occasions in the past, he proved to be a total failure in the rest of the series. The Pakistan Cricket Board needs to understand that they can’t ignore Lala’s larger than life attitude and at this crucial stage, if he can’t show maturity being a veteran in the side, Pakistan will have to think about cricket beyond Afridi.
In the past, one of Pakistan’s major strength was the presence of world class all-rounders. There was a time when Abdul Razzak, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez were part of the same squad. While Malik was dropped for his form, Razzak further dented his chances of a comeback after slamming Misbah for his slow game. "He is batting slowly and playing too many dot balls and that adds to the pressure on the batsman playing with him or those coming in. If a captain bats defensively and doesn`t lead the charge then it demoralises the environment in the dressing room," Razzaq had said.
And not only Razzaq, but the staunchest supporters of the Pakistan cricket have blamed Misbah for playing selfish cricket which has cost them several games. But when you look at his record in 2013, he has scored 745 runs at an average of 58. The concern for Pakistan is, while he is comfortable playing too many dot balls and then accelerating the pace of the innings, it affects the performance of other batsmen who are under pressure to score quick runs with their skipper playing his natural tuk-tuk cricket.
I am not too sure whether Misbah would fit in Pakistan’s squad for the 2015 World Cup and thus, it’s time the selectors hand over the captaincy to someone like Mohammad Hafeez. The professor has a brilliant cricketing brain and he has all that it requires to lead a successful side.
It’s high time Pakistan select a 15-man squad which they think would deliver their best at the 2015 World Cup. And they have the kind of players who can do well at the big stage. It’s just about beginning the process of filtration. And before that, they need to appoint a skipper who can inject some fresh energy into the side.
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