Inzamam and Misbah are as good as Imran Khan and Azhar Ali
I recently came across a blog on The Express Tribune titled From Imran Khan to Azhar Ali – Pakistan’s ‘leaders’ over the years and I did not agree with the author’s criticism of Inzamamul Haq and Misbahul Haq. This is simply because they were not only good captains but also played some vital innings in their captaincy for Pakistan cricket.
First of all, Imran batted at number three in the 1992 semi-final, hence playing at the same number in the final was not the first occasion of its kind. His bowling was not of quality at that point and thus he knew he had to lead with the bat in important games. He definitely led with the bat, on the field and off the field, no doubts about that.
In Inzamam’s defence, I would say that Shoaib Malik used to be very consistent at number three, Younus Khan was in great form and Yousuf was at his peak. Inzamam was the best player of spin out of the lot but was a bit shaky in front of the new ball, which is why I think him playing at number five was justified.
According to the author, Inzamam needed a push and lacked in captaincy skills. Well, I can write a separate blog on the number of times Inzamam led from the front and single-handedly won the game for Pakistan.
Misbah, on the other hand, is the one we should be praising for his performance in the 2007 World T20 final. Imran Nazir was run-out, Mohammad Hafeez dropped a catch in the late overs of India's innings which went for a six, and all the others had failed. Misbah went in for a second six in the last over, when only four balls were left, which was much needed. He had already hit three sixes off one of the most successful bowlers of the tournament, Harbhajan.
In 2011, during the Mohali semi-final, Misbah and Younus slowed the pace of the game in the middle overs, but the blame for that lies on the management who had the batting order of Asad Shafiq, Younus, followed by Misbah. Then, making it worse, entered our risk-takers – Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq. In my opinion, Umar should have been at number four or Yousuf should have been selected in that tournament instead of Shafiq or Shehzad, where the latter gave an utterly disappointing performance.
No other cricketer has hit the fastest Test 100 under pressure or when it was truly needed. One does not come into a Test match thinking of hitting the fastest ton. Misbah, at a neutral venue, went after a side that had outclassed England and South Africa in their recent past. Look at the number of times Misbah played crucial Test innings. The Sharjah Test against Sri Lanka is one such example, when chasing over 300 in just over 50 overs, Azhar Ali made career-defining innings and Misbah led from the front with fine innings and finished the game.
If we recall correctly, the Champions Trophy 2013 debacle was the result of failures of Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal. Misbah was the lone man fighting against West Indies and South Africa.
Taking into consideration his recent performance during the 2015 World Cup, I feel Misbah was one brave leader. This World Cup portrayed Misbah’s most aggressive captaincy, as he tried to bowl out the opposition rather than defend runs. This was seen against Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia. Not all captains take such risks! The way he handled fast-bowlers and gave them attacking fields was a remarkable feat indeed.
The biggest hurdle with Misbah’s captaincy was perhaps the team selection. He failed to pick full-strength teams or the best possible squads. One wonders whether Shehzad and Umar should have been superior players than they are at the moment. However, you cannot just blame Misbah.
Azhar is proving his captaincy skills as we speak. He can score a hundred plus as an opener and his average is exceptional at the moment. He has a decent temperament which he has shown in Test cricket for some time, and we as fans should support him and our team more.
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