Saturday, March 21, 2015

I am a Convert

I have always been a Misbah Ul Haq critic.

I have always maintained that the biggest mistake in Pakistan's recent cricket history has been replacing Shahid Afridi as ODI captain with Misbah shortly after Afridi led his team to the semifinals of the 2011 World Cup.

I still stick by that statement, but I hate Misbah a little less than I hated him after Mohali. In fact I don't hate him at all.

He captained Pakistan in 87 ODIs, as many as Inzamam Ul Haq, the third highest in Pakistan's history after Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. He didn't win as many ODIs as captain as Imran, Wasim, and Inzamam, but he still won more games than he lost: 45 to 39 with a win % of 53.5.

I have always been a big supporter of Misbah the captain in Tests. He has been one of our best ever, if not the best. But his ODI captaincy always left a lot to be desired. However, this World Cup changed my perception at least.

The biggest criticism of Misbah was his defensive approach. His defensive batting and his defensive captaincy. Misbah defended his tactics by talking about his limited resources and how his statements reflected the performance of Pakistan in this World Cup. Misbah's slow go approach didn't seem as slow any more considering that the team in fact struggled to bat its quota of 50 overs whenever Misbah fell early.

The irony however, would always be that the one day Pakistan required him to go slow and play out overs, he fell holing out to the boundary in his last ever ODI.

I always felt that Misbah's batting in many an ODI resulted in Pakistan scoring less than what they could have or in Pakistan not being able to close a match. However, in more recent games, I started feeling that Misbah was always right. He had no option but to bat that way.

This World Cup was a testament to that fact, Against India, he was the lone man fighting in a chase of 300. Against West Indies, Pakistan folded to 160 as Misbah went early. Against Zimbabwe, Misbah was unable to accelerate as wickets kept tumbling around him as Pakistan struggled to 235. Against South Africa, it was the same story as Misbah was just not allowed to step up the scoring rate with constant wickets falling around him. Against the UAE, he played a free flowing knock since the other batsmen easily scored against weak bowling. Against Ireland, he again played freely as Pakistan were always in charge of the chase. Against Australia, in his final ODI innings, he looked good till he holed out. He should have gone on I felt, but you can't really blame him for playing the stroke that had fetched him two sixes earlier in the innings.

I believe the value of Misbah the batsman will be realized now that he is no longer part of the ODI set up. Someone else will need to take the responsibility to play through the innings. Someone else will be required to anchor the innings. Someone else will need to step up and bail Pakistan out every time they are 2 down for very little.

I don't know who that someone will be, but whoever it is, will really miss having Misbah at the other end.

Misbah's captaincy also shone during this World Cup, especially in the two must win pressure games against Zimbabwe and South Africa. Sure Misbah did not have any option but to attack to win those two games, but he was their instilling the belief in the team. Those two win was redemption in my eyes for Misbah the ODI captain.

There are many sweet memories associated with Misbah's captaincy in ODI cricket. the Asia Cup win in 2012, the series win over India in India, and the first ever series win by an Asian team in South Africa. Those three series will always be remembered by fans and will always be talked about how they were achieved under Misbah.

Moin Khan and Inzamam Ul Haq have also achieved the first two wins in the past for Pakistan. However the win in South Africa is Misbah's alone.

I was a critic in the past, but now that he's left ODI cricket, I am already feeling his absence. I truly believe his value will be realized in our next ODI series. And many more after that too.

Misbah leaves the ODI game without ever scoring an ODI hundred. That will remain the only blemish on his otherwise outstanding record. He retired from ODIs having scored the most runs ever by a batsman without a century. He retired with a batting average of 43.4, which is second only to Zaheer Abbas for all Pakistan batsman with at least 1,000 runs. His batting average was better than Inzamam's, Anwar's, Yousuf's, and Miandad's. He averaged more than Ponting, Lara, Sangakkara, Lloyd, Ganguly, Haynes, Crowe, Waugh, and many other illustrious ODI batsmen. He scored over 3,000 runs as Pakistan captain, second only to the great Imran Khan.

Those are great numbers for a man who was forever criticized for the way he batted.

From being a harsh Misbah critic, I am now a Misbah supporter. Yes I am a convert. He will be missed.

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  1. cwolf said...

    I'm a rational Misbah hater not because I have anything against him but for what he represents which is totally anaethema to the history of Pakistan cricket which for me has always been about fast aggressive pace bowling making up for our batting deficiency. Misbah's negativity affected the team on all levels and probably showed why he was ignored for so many years during the days of Inzamam and Yousuf. Just as people asked after the retirement of Inzi and MoYo what will become of Pakistan batting they ask again now but we have some very competent youngsters already in Haris, Maqsood and maybe most importantly Fawad Alam. Fawad has the ability to bat long but he does so without detracting from the team but adding to it with his strike rotation capability. So goodbye Misbah but you won't be missed because now Fawad will get the place you have wasted.

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