Pakistan in New Zealand 2010-11 January 19, 2011

The latest chapter in Misbah's extraordinary career

There is no shortage of remarkable stories in Pakistan cricket but Misbah's is something else altogether

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.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sameera on January 21, 2011, 16:47 GMT

    Thank you John! at least there is one neutral cricket lover who recognises Pak contributions to cricket and may well give rap on hands of those who out of sheer enmity want to ban Pakistan. For a quick recap: who invented the concept of running between wickets? rewind plz: javed and Asif Iqbal playing against India. Who invented Doosra and reverse swing? rewind: Saqlain and Sarfraz.Who knew about reverse sweep as a weapon until Mushatq played it.Who brought neutral umpires into game: Imran khan.Which cricket team can defy all odds: yes Pak. which team can regenerate so quickly despite serious issues.Did cornered tigers win ODI WC and T20 WC? Which team scares everone?Match fixing is not just confined to this team.Cronje and Azhar were not from pakistan and they did all that in another land.U can ban as many players as u like but soon a poor kid playing somewhere right now with a piece of broken wood& discarded ball will give u shock of your life.Give thm leader they will conquer u all.

  • John on January 21, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    As a huge Seffrican cricket fan can I speak for lovers of this great game the world over: What has happened to Pakistan cricket is enough to make you weep! Pakistani cricketers have added so much to the game - both talent and character. If only their administration and leadership was as good as their talent. With 800million cricket nuts - who knows what incredible players are lurking in Pakistan.

  • shahab on January 20, 2011, 20:44 GMT

    No doubt, Misbah has the best "Cricketing Brain" in whole Pakistan team but I don't like him as a player especially when it comes to ODIs.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 19:09 GMT

    Mr. Singh your comments are valid but not for this article. You're taking a joke very seriously. Just remember, Usman Samiuddin wrote this, not Harsha Bhogle. Unlike Mr. Bhogle, Mr. Samiuddin intends to be funny when he's joking.

  • Osama on January 20, 2011, 18:35 GMT

    Can't tell if Osman Samiuddin is being sarcastic or not. My friend put it best when he said, "this article was written by Imran Yusuf for Page 2, and was then intercepted by Osman Samiuddin and posted on the main page".

  • Steve on January 20, 2011, 18:13 GMT

    Misbah should still be trying to come to grips with being given a 2nd life in Cricket (any form, considering his fate till just recently) and being Test Captain, no less. PCB should let him become a stable member of the team first, before burdening him with Captaincy in other formats. Afridi has not done anything worthwhile of late in ODIs and T20s, so Younis would be a better bet for WC, providing he agrees to do it. Otherwise, I suggest Kamran to be made Captain.

  • Yasir on January 20, 2011, 14:00 GMT

    Hi S.N.Singh,

    You have taken comparison of Misbah with Bradman too seriously. The writer had no intent to do that, he just threw a statistic on lighter side. Rather than commenting on something substantial you have written a long para on Bradman and Gavasker. I am sure if you suggest Gavasker can do a come back.

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 13:11 GMT

    Ul Haqs as captain??? My name ends in Akram let me lead the attack lol jk Anyways, we shoulds jump to conclusions yet, Mishbah has only lead in 2 series, that too he has done VERY well with an under strength side. ODIs, i think Afridi should remain, unless he is bad during the NZ ODIs....

  • Dummy4 on January 20, 2011, 13:02 GMT

    I have no problems with Pakistan playing for the draw, despite the fact it would have given my Kiwi boys a better chance of forcing a win - Misbah did what he had to do to win the series, he's proving Lawson right - he has got a good cricket brain, something Pakistan has lacked sometimes! Good luck to him and to a resurgent Pakistan, but please let NZ win the ODI series!!!

  • muhammad on January 20, 2011, 10:07 GMT

    @harris: agreed..even if asad hadnt got out (thanks to another umpiring error)..we had a chance...they cud ve fired in the last 5 or 6 overs...and remember 3 bonus overs were also bowled because there was still time left in the day...there s no way then that misbah wud ve relied on adnan akmal n rest to we saw wat happened in the 1st soon as younis got out...everyone else followed !! so that was the right thing to do to save the series

    still i think his on field tactics were not that aggressive...we saw wahab troubling guptill with his short pitched ones...3 times in one over...but no forward short leg was taken !! hafiz shd ve bin brought on to bowl in 2nd session instead of 3rd..n nz innings cud ve been wrapped up i think he shd analyse his mistakes n learn from them after the celebrations are over !

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