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There is no shortage of remarkable stories in Pakistan cricket but Misbah's is something else altogether
January 19, 2011
The pressing need of the moment is a book on Misbah-ul-Haq. If cards are played sharply, perhaps a film can be considered too. At the very least he must get on Twitter or Facebook immediately. There is no shortage of remarkable stories in Pakistan cricket but Misbah's is something else altogether. It must be told, even at the risk of further squeezing a world overcrowded by my vegetable-seller and your greengrocer telling us everything about their life in regular, 140-character updates.
In one tweet, sample Misbah's career; "pkd 01 drpd 02,mba,bk 07@33, dmn@jogi shma pddle wrld cp,hero ind, wrld chmp 09,drpd 09, brn kit, bk capt 10@36, led 1st test win 4yrs booya". All that remains is for him to take over as ODI captain - and given that he only played two ODIs last year after which he was dropped, that is all but assured - and win Pakistan the 2011 World Cup. Or take them to the final and tread on his stumps as he hooks the last ball for the four required to win it.
As with his first return in 2007, his second comeback in 2010, as captain no less, was mostly ridiculed. Geoff Lawson, who worked closely with him, was happy that he had the best cricket brain in Pakistan. Lawson's assessment is open to question, but that Misbah is the first brain in four years to construct a Test series win for Pakistan is not; he is also the first Pakistani to win a Test series outside the subcontinent in seven years. Inzamam-ul-Haq being the last leader in both instances, perhaps the PCB should only appoint ul-Haqs as captain.
A series win in a lower-mid table battle may not seem instantly important, but Pakistan will celebrate it with as much energy as New Zealand will expend in introspection. These have been a troubling few months for both sides.
Not least of Misbah's achievements as captain - and this includes the series with South Africa - is that it went off without anybody being killed. No one ran away and no bookies have yet been sighted. Daniel Vettori even completed his press conference duties without insinuating anything untoward about Umar Gul's fine fourth-evening spell in Wellington. It is a minor triumph.
There were genuine gains in the field for Pakistan. Primarily, the batting appears to be something you could place a paperclip on and not expect it to collapse immediately. Sure the bowling they faced in New Zealand wasn't up to much and the surfaces in the UAE weren't either, but runs have to be made and time played. After the horrors of a damp, overcast English summer and three sub-100 scores in four Tests, men such as Azhar Ali in particular deserved a break.
The bowling is the greater worry now. This attack is hard-working, not explosive and on flatter surfaces, with more resolute batsmen, hard days will present themselves. How typical it is of Pakistan that just when their batting appears to sort itself out, they are without as good a new-ball pair in world cricket as there can be. Those are the cards that have been dealt. There are perhaps a couple of names domestically worth investing in, Junaid Khan one of them. But mostly the hope is that time will do what it does best here and suddenly produce an outstanding, naturally gifted fast bowler in the next two years.
And that is the thing really. Last year, with a much stronger side, Pakistan were indebted to rain for not losing the Test series against New Zealand and this year, with ten different faces, they've won a Test and come close to winning the second. New players keep getting discovered, older players are rediscovered, domestic veterans flower briefly but usefully, those we think can captain don't, those we think can't do; Pakistan cricket keeps on moving. Incidentally, one way to look at their recent performances is that they've lost only one of their last four Test series - all outside Pakistan - against England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. It isn't a bad haul.
The last words, though, for Misbah. Lawson noted correctly when Misbah was appointed that his own performances would be absolutely crucial in determining the fate and length of his tenure. In Pakistan this matters much more. Such has been the output that it can be said that Sir Don Bradman's average as captain was Misbah-esque: the Don averages merely 101.75 to Misbah's 112.75.
Perhaps not: the point remains that, so far, leadership has enhanced Misbah's batting, in particular his responsibility in constructing an innings and that is a handy trick. Certainly he hasn't looked out of depth, or naïve, on the field, to some extent proving Lawson's assessment that he handles problems analytically not emotionally. Years of domestic leadership have no doubt helped.
"PS Misbah would make a great chairman of the PCB in another 15 years!!!" Lawson once signed off. Best reserve a copy of that book now.
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