A lot of people saw Misbahul Haq’s appointment as Pakistan’s Test captain with a negative frame of mind. It seemed like a compromising choice after Salman Butt’s suspension. But he possesses good knowledge of the game and his biggest virtue has been a positive attitude.
I would confess underestimating him when he said, “Pakistan has a good chance of beating South Africa,” before the series started in Dubai.
“I have learnt over the years that if you enter the ground with a positive frame of mind, things go your way and if you don’t, things start to haunt you,” said Misbah.
The draw in the first Test brought a smile to the captain’s face. “No one gave us any chance of drawing the Test, but we remained positive and focused and the way we batted on the final day was exemplary. It has given me and the players the confidence that our batting, which has been our problem for long, can do well under pressure and if we continue to do so I see a bright future for us,” said Misbah, who was a disheartened man after being dropped for the New Zealand tour last year.
Then, instantly, he questioned the omission, put the blame on selectors, but to his credit fought his way back. A well-made double hundred earned him a recall midway through the tour but once again he was dumped after he failed to cement his place.
But Pakistan cricket’s strange ways – the only country where a player can be recalled as captain – helped him stage a comeback. Once again the decision did not go well in the Pakistani media as well as with former players. But Misbah remained unflappable.
“It doesn’t disappoint me neither is it surprising,” said Misbah. “I know people doubt my abilities as captain but I have led several teams at domestic level, so it’s not something new for me.
“Leading Pakistan has always been a challenge and I know my abilities. I will be up for it,” said Misbah.
However, before the Test series started, Misbah received another jolt when he was dropped from the one-day team after the third match. The 36-year-old’s confidence would have hit a new low.
Misbah however put up a brave face and said that it was for the betterment of the team. His first innings failure continued to bother followers but that too, he says, wasn’t concerning. Come the all-important final innings and Misbah supported century-maker Younus Khan in saving the match for Pakistan. Luck favoured Pakistan, which Misbah attributed to the positive attitude. “We were positive about saving the Test and the way South Africa dropped crucial catches proved that if you remain positive even luck favours you,” said Misbah.
What does the future hold for Misbah?
“I will remain positive. We have a tough tour of New Zealand so I am not thinking very far ahead because you must focus on the immediate assignments, and that is the New Zealand tour. The World Cup comes after that,” said Misbah who is yet to play in a World Cup since making his debut in 2002.
But as far as Test captaincy is concerned, if Pakistan win the Abu Dhabi Test, Misbah will have justified his appointment, for beating South Africa is no mean achievement.
Then doubts and criticism on having a 36-plus as captain will no longer linger.
The writer is a freelance sports journalist
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2010.