I dare to defend Misbah
If an alter-ego of Imran Khan can be found that man is Misbah! I have decided to forgive him after yesterday..
"I hate Misbah!"
"He made us lose another game."
"This is what to expect when you have a captain like Misbah!"
Try as I might to close my eyes to this increasingly trite propaganda, I find escape impossible. So here I offer my two cents, because if there is one thing I abhor above all others, it is the mindless hate leveled at those who don't defend themselves.
After his recent performance in the fourth One Day International (ODI) of the West Indies vs Pakistan series, Misbah has managed to prove himself worthy enough to be respected as the captain of the team. During this chase, he went past Wasim Akram’s record of the most ODI runs without a century. He scored an unbeaten 53 off 43 balls which complemented Mohammad Hafeez’s 59 off 62 to win us the game. Additionally, Misbah’s decision to bowl despite no forecast of rain ended up giving us the advantage. Rainy weather or not - Misbah stole the thunder – literally.
Pakistanis as a nation have amnesia. They seem to have conveniently forgotten the pain and horror of the year 2010, when Ijaz Butt was playing fast and loose with an International Cricket Council (ICC) membership that was all but out of our hands - thanks to the shame administered by the spot-fixing trio. It was not a matter of ‘if’, but rather of ‘when’ we would lose our membership. Ijaz Butt was the last man who cared. It was from these ashes that rose a phoenix - Misbahul Haq.
I remember not being too pleased with the choice of appointing him as captain because this was a man who had been in and out of the team but had never done anything to cement his place. Moreover, he was not a young man and his demeanour did not inspire confidence.
I was to be proven wrong very soon. Under his guidance, we managed to keep South Africa from mauling us, a probability that was all too real, even though we were in the UAE (akin to home-ground for us.)
I remember how much it infuriated me when he didn’t go for the victory, even though the team was safe. He did the same in New Zealand. I wailed and agonised at such a grossly defensive behaviour. However, it wasn’t till later that I realised how HE must have felt at the time. He was as a man whose career never really took off and for him this was the last real chance of proving his mettle. Given the state of chaos team Pakistan was in, risking a safe draw for a seemingly easy victory must have seemed dangerously risky to him, but we didn't understand this.
I forgive him. For the service he has rendered to this team in its most difficult period, I would be willing to forgive him a 100 Mohalis over.
Misbah is not a first choice batsman for most world teams, nor, is he a captain who has flair and an attacking instinct. If an alter-ego of Imran Khan can be found, that man is Misbah.
When he appeared on the scene, Pakistan needed a non-confrontational captain who could juggle the irresponsible Ijaz Butt and the loveable Shahid Afridi. We needed a captain who could help a team scarred by spot-fixing and drag them out of the self-created mire of disrepute, all without visibly losing control. Misbah filled that role admirably, while establishing himself as the most reliable cog in the batting wheel. The team knew that they could expect him to deliver 40 - 70 odd runs at a 60 - 70 odd strike rate in almost every innings.
This is what kills the case of him pressuring batsmen into making stupid mistakes because he is the only player who has been to most consistent.
While our batsmen know they will have to take charge, they also know that their captain will stand by them while they do so. It is unfortunate that he cannot take singles, and has few shots other than his pet reverse-sweep and his sudden straight sixes, but in a team where absolutely nothing else can be counted on, Misbah's infallibility is a boon.
Yes, I understand that his captaincy leaves much to be desired. He lacks the attacking instinct. Yet, he regularly opens with his spinners, shows a quiet belief in his bowlers that spurs them on to defend paltry totals, and he masterfully won the war of attrition against the then world number one outfit, leaving them wondering what had hit them.
Pakistan has traditionally had world-class pace attacks, but Misbah led them at a time when they had been stripped of just such an attack and relied almost exclusively on spin.
Oh yes, Pakistanis have terribly short memories, but this Pakistani can remember and is in no hurry to forget.
Thank you Misbah, for living up to my trust, I always knew you had it in you!
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