He doesn’t have the aura of legendary Imran Khan. He doesn’t have the spark of Javed Miandad. He is not even a dynamic all-rounder like Wasim Akram. He is not as gifted as Inzamam-ul-Haq or as talented as Waqar Younis. But at the moment, 40-year-old Misbah-ul-Haq is still the best man to lead the Pakistan side.
Let’s find out the reasons why the ageing middle-order batsman is best suited man for one of the toughest jobs in the world.
Most consistent performer: He is the only player in the current Pakistani team who has been in a rich vein of form. However, his critics always feel that he maintains a low strike-rate and often label his batting style as ‘tuk-tuk’. It’s high time they understand the fact that he mostly plays according to the situation. If the top order flops, which has been the case on most occasions in the tournament, he has to consolidate the innings. He is among those rare breeds in world cricket who can block and slog equally well. But he needs to have someone from the other end with whom he can stitch a crucial partnership to execute the plan. It’s a team game. He can’t come out as match winner every time. In the World Cup thus far, he has scored 76, 7, 73, 66, 56 and 39. What else one can expect from a batsman?
Limited resources: In the on-going showpiece event, Misbah has limited resources. Pakistan entered the World Cup without the services of their two premier players -- Saeed Ajmal and Mohammed Hafeez. If the former is the number one ODI bowler, then the latter is one of the most effective all-rounders in world cricket. Apart from this, their most experienced bowler Umar Gul also missed out on cricket’s showpiece event. Their bowling spearhead Muhammad Irfan is not fully fit. Even after all these limitations, Misbah & Co are picking up the momentum at the right time in the tournament. The mannher in which Pakistan defended a modest total successfully against one of the title contenders South Africa, they once again proved their ability to beat the best teams in the business.
Cool headed: Very much like MS Dhoni, Misbah too is blessed with a cool and stable head on his shoulders. In fact, while batting, he brings the serenity like VVS Laxman did. He maintains a low profile and stays away from the media glare, which seems as if he tries emulating ‘the wall’ Rahul Dravid. He rarely shows emotions on field as most of the times he looks composed and sorted. His ability to maintain such grace, amid all the criticism and controversies, makes him a standout among all the Pakistani players. He might not be a born leader but as a manager he is certainly better than the rest. Thus far, Misbah has handled his players well, for which he deserves applause not criticism.
Mentally, psychologically exhausted team: Pakistan haven’t played any international cricket on home soil since 2009, when the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked in Lahore in which six policemen and a van driver were killed. They are playing their home matches in UAE, which means players are hardly getting a chance to spend time with family and friends. It has certainly exhausted and drained the players mentally and psychologically. Then their cricket board, PCB, is one of the most unstable sports bodies around the world. Their chief and selectors change every now and then, which would be affecting the team in many ways. Then a senior player like Shahid Afridi makes the situation even worse within the team by showing the greediness to lead the pack each time he gets a platform. To lead such a country is difficult, especially when it’s Pakistan, where cricket is the number one sport. In the midst all these uncertainties and controversies, Misbah is the man standing firmly on his feet and leading the pack from the front and going stronger than ever.
Team achieved new heights: Misbah took the reins of Pakistan cricket on the back of match-fixing controversy in 2010 and since then Pakistan team has achieved a lot under his leadership in Test and ODI cricket. He is only the 2nd Pakistani captain to win the Asia Cup after Moin Khan. According to the stats, he is Pakistan's most successful Test captain with 15 wins under his belt. The ageing cricketer is also the first captain from subcontinent to beat South Africa in South Africa. In fact, he owns several batting records as well. In the year 2013, he was not only the leading run scorer in ODIs but also slammed most ODI fifties (15) in the calender year. The right-hander also holds the record for the fastest Test fifty (21 Balls), which he scored in 24 minutes against Australia in Abu Dhabi last year.
Misbah is certainly doing one of the most difficult jobs in the world – leading Pakistan’s cricket team. And interestingly, at the moment there is no other player in the side who one can pick and say confidently that he could be a better skipper than Misbah. So let’s not criticize him for anything and everything and give him some breathing space so that he can focus on the most important task at hand – giving Pakistan their 2nd World Cup trophy.