Two weeks ago, we witnessed my article on Younis Khan become one of the most read and shared post on social media.
Now, over the past two days, we have received an unprecedented reaction to my article that compares the ODI era under Misbah and Azhar. The reaction, however, has been quite varied. We have been ridiculed by some who stand strongly (and blindly) by Misbah the ODI captain, while at the same time we have been appreciated by two of the most respected sports journalists of our time - Ahmer Naqvi and Emmad Hameed - who have followed up with articles of their own regarding Pakistan's recent ODI resurgence.
While Ahmer has followed up with a brilliant statistical piece highlighting the differences between Misbah's and Azhar's ODI teams, Emmad fondly writes about the last time Pakistan's batting was so dominant and how this team is shaping up so well.
I can't thank these two, and many others who have read, shared, and commented on the article, enough for the mentions and appreciation.
Besides this appreciation, there was also some retaliation as I mentioned.Instead of replying to each one individually, which I tried to do yesterday but failed in getting the message across and in process got called all sorts of inventive names like "a well documented Afridiot", I thought it best to reiterate some points in one place.
1. The entire article is an analysis of the performance of batsmen in ODIs. There is no mention of bowling performance. The fact the Misbah was excellent in how he used bowlers in ODIs holds no bearing on how he crippled our batting in ODIs.
2. Being a critic of Misbah does not automatically make one a Afridi fan, and vice versa. It is quite humanly possible to love both, hate both, appreciate certain qualities of both, and criticize other things about both. "Humanly" being the key word.
3. While openly blaming Misbah for destroying our ODI batting over 4 years, I have also publicly hailed his test leadership, talked of how he is the best thing to happen to Pakistan test cricket, and appreciated his utilization of bowlers in ODIs. It does not make me a Misbah hater when I say that he was the single reason for our regression in ODIs between 2011 and 2015.
4. If the same Misbah fans can praise him for taking Pakistan to number 3 in the test rankings, shouldn't they also criticize him for taking Pakistan to number 8 in the ODI rankings? Just common sense, isn't it?
5. It is interesting how so many people blame Afridi, Malik, and Hafeez for having captaincy aspirations and under performing under Misbah. Isn't it so ironic that despite that, Hafeez is Pakistan's leading run scorer under Misbah, and that besides some outstanding bowling efforts, most of Pakistan's ODI victories under Misbah were a result of outstanding performances from Hafeez and Afridi. In fact Afridi's numbers in ODI wins under Misbah's captaincy are exceptional!
6. The problem I have was never the sacking of Afridi as captain of the ODI team. The problem was appointing Misbah as ODI captain. The person he replaced and alternative options are irrelevant. Misbah was the wrong choice as ODI captain.
7. When Misbah took over the Test team in 2010, it was in turmoil. Yes, it was facing the worst scandal in its history. When Misbah took over the ODI team in 2011, they were World Cup Semi Finalists, had won their last two ODI series vs NZ (3-2) and vs WI (3-2), and lost the two ODI series prior to that vs SA (3-2) and vs Eng (3-2). The ODI team was NOT in any turmoil.
8. The argument against sample size is something that is partially accurate. I say partially because I can agree to revisit the performances of Hafeez, Malik, Haris, and Azhar after a year or two when they have faced tougher opposition in tougher conditions, and when they have played more ODIs under Azhar's captaincy. I also say partially because the sample size in no way changes the fact that in 4 years under Misbah, Pakistan scored > 280 only 5 times and chased > 250 only twice, yet Pakistan has done the same in only 4 months under Azhar Ali.
In fact, last night they just completed a third successful chase above 250, making it more times than they ever managed under Misbah.
Why is it so difficult to understand that in 4 years under Misbah, Pakistan also played in batting paradises, they also faced Bangladesh and Zimbabwe (in fact more times than they have done now), they played against even weaker opposition like Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland, and yet they managed a score above 280 only 5 times.
9. For those saying that beating Sri Lanka is no big deal because they are a team in transition with the retirements of Sangakkara and Jayawardene, what about our team? Aren't we also a new team with the retirements of Misbah and Afridi, the absence of Saeed Ajmal, and the ban on Hafeez?
Moreover, it is our batting that is winning the matches and the presence of Sanga and Mahela would not have had much of an impact on our batting.
10. Last night's win further strengthened my argument regarding a changing mindset within the Pakistan camp. In his post match interview, Ahmed Shehzad clearly said "we are trying to change the way we used to bat", highlighting that he and other batsmen are making a conscious effort to bat more in line with the requirements of modern day ODI cricket. Shehzad's innings was testament to that fact.
I believe I have addressed all the arguments that were raised by some people. While I understand that I cannot change certain opinions, I am a firm believer of presenting arguments with evidence and there is ample evidence that suggests that under Misbah's captaincy, Pakistan witnessed its worst era of ODI cricket ever. That in no way takes away the fact that under Misbah's captaincy, Pakistan has also witnessed one of its best, if not the best, era of Test cricket ever.