KARACHI: Cricket is a strange game. For all its inherent flaws, it has a tendency of producing stars that teach us new things about the sport, about ourselves and about life in general.
Sachin Tendulkar taught us how vital technique is. AB de Villiers taught us how cricket has outgrown it.
David Warner taught us the value of unabated aggression. MS Dhoni taught us the importance of unmoving calm.
Hashim Amla taught us the beauty of mild-mannered simplicity. Imran Khan taught us the attraction of confident swagger.
But every now and then come along players who teach us a lot more. In Misbahul Haq and Younus Khan, Pakistan found two such men.
By picking up the pieces after the spot-fixing scandal, they taught us that gritty resilience and effortless grace can go hand in hand.
By slowly repairing Pakistan’s image in world cricket, they taught us how difficult picking up the pieces can be.
By welcoming young blood into the side and making them feel welcome, they taught us that there can never be any substitute for wisdom and experience.
By scoring 10,000 runs, Younus taught us that slow and steady does indeed win the race.
By scoring then Test’s fastest century, Misbah taught us how quickly you can make your doubters eat their words.
By playing till they were 39 and 42, they taught us the importance of patience and perseverance.
Along the way, there were down points — this wouldn’t be such a romantic fairy tale if there weren’t. There were moments of doubt, criticism, exile, personal loss and bad form.
There were the 18 months or so when series wins dried up. There were the humiliating whitewashes against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia — much to the delight of their detractors.
There were the lean patches with the bat. There were questions about their age. There were the countless times their defensive styles came into question. There were the constant reminders that they could never live up to the legends of old — immensely mercurial and nostalgically superior as they were. There was the unwavering pressure of a snide nation waiting eagerly for them to fail.
But as surely as the sky is blue, these two always bounced back, always silenced the critics. And in doing so, they broke records countless and created fond memories aplenty.
The undying image of Misbahul Haq and Younus Khan — grinding oppositions into the ground — will always bring a fond smile onto the face of all lovers of cricket and Pakistan. And with those smiles will come several realisations.
By never giving up, they made us realise that dawn follows even the darkest of nights.
By slowly but surely making us love them — almost despite ourselves — they made us realise how even a fickle nation can’t help but admire sheer class.
By being Pakistan’s greatest ever Test captain and batsman, they made us realise how truly legendary they were.
By going down as legends, they made us realise how even seemingly ordinary men can achieve the extraordinary.
But, in the cruellest of fashion, by retiring from the game they loved so much, they made us realise how badly Pakistan cricket will miss them.