Misbahul Haq, the man who broke cricket beyond repair
Under Misbah, Pakistan’s natural attacking nous, aggression and raw power died a slow, poisonous death.
As ungentlemanly as it is to castigate someone in the aftermath of a retirement, such is the rage I harbour for the man named Misbahul Haq that I’ll break this sporting code.
Before I tear into my vitriolic rant, I’ll start by saying that I have nothing against Misbah ‘the person’. In fact, as a captain, he did a stellar job staying clear of any controversies a la the Salman Butts and Wasim Akrams of these shores. I’ll give him that. Statistically speaking too, Misbah, I’ve come to know, was better than some of our better ones. He also deserves some marks for taking the armband in 2010 — a time when it was more a poisoned chalice than an honour.
But my beef with Misbah isn’t about numbers. It isn’t even about how he calmed a sinking ship and cleaned up our rotten image... until it became rottener.
Trust me, I’m not even holding against him the fact that we lost the World T20 final against India. After all, per Misbah fanboy logic, that doesn’t even count since it was him who had single-handedly brought us to that place. The point is that he may have a winning ratio beyond 100%, he may have played a cleaner better than even Harvey Keitel himself, but Misbah will always remain the man who took the joy of cricket from me.
Under this particular Mianwali-born, Pakistan’s natural attacking nous, aggression, raw power — all ethos of our cricketing culture — died a slow, poisonous death. Instead of being a proactive, in-your-face side as we always were, Misbah’s Pakistan cricket team became a timid creature, happy to simply react and dance to others’ tunes rather than set the tone itself. The deeper we went into the Misbah era, the good old days of taking the game to the opposition became more and more a distant memory.
On a good day, Misbah and his men would batter lowly opposition to beef up their ‘winning percentage’. A bad day would see him fold his arms up and run his hand through his beard as if some masterly plan was in the making. The session would end, the day would end, the match would end, but the conjuring of the grand plan wouldn’t. And instead of offsetting his contagious defensive mind-set with more vibrant personalities, the Tuk Tuk maestro stockpiled on cricketers cut from the same cloth as himself.
So while the world went Abraham Benjamin de Villiers, we went Azhar Ali. The world churned out Virat Kohlis and we’d emit a measly Asad Shafiq (the ODI one). This was the Misbah effect.
Before Misbah trudged up the field with his sleepy face and Mianwali drawl, the country had an embarrassment of riches in the aggression department. The pool was so rich with attack-first talent that our selectors regularly binned world-class players just because they could afford to.
There was always someone waiting in the wings who could smack till his bat broke or bowl till his back broke. Not in the Misbah era though. The man has sucked every drop of excitement out of the game. And for that, as far as I am concerned, he will always remain the man who broke cricket beyond repair.