Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Dubai October 22, 2013

Misbah thrives by shutting out noise


If Misbah-ul-Haq had taken his critics seriously, he thinks he would have retired before he made his international debut. At 27, Misbah was a late bloomer whose focus was more on his studies than sport. His quiet demeanour made him an easy target when he didn't perform and there were many who thought he was best dispensed with. He, however, shut them all out.

"I don't bother with what people are saying. If I listened to them, my career would have been over in 2001," he said. "I know what I am doing after playing for 15 or 20 years of cricket and I know what I am doing right or wrong. Most of the legends are appreciating what I do, and guys who don't have any say in Pakistan cricket are the ones saying things."

Misbah has since made a decision to filter the feedback he gets, especially the attacks on his defensive tactics. Those have softened after his century - an uncharacteristically aggressive one at that - during Pakistan's win over South Africa last week. Now, scrutiny has shifted to how he, as captain, will approach the second Test and whether he will be satisfied with preserving Pakistan's 1-0 lead or if he will encourage his charges to show positive intent.

Dav Whatmore said the preservation of a lead would do because winning a series was important irrespective of the margin. Younis Khan was more interested being aggressive, wanting to finish South Africa off 2-0 to prove Pakistan's ruthlessness. Misbah, as is his nature, wasn't giving too much away.

Although he had promised a result-oriented pitch immediately after the first Test and sounded as though he genuinely believed Pakistan were close to ending South Africa's seven year unbeaten streak on the road, he is now taking a step back. He likened this more contemplative mood to the way Pakistan approached the series last year, when they whitewashed England. Misbah said they were able to do that because allowed themselves perspective between games.

"It was a matter of taking every game as it came. That was the key for us," Misbah said. "Even when we got to the third Test match, we were not looking at it from the point of view that we had already won two games. So we are not going to put any pressure on ourselves and say we have to win or draw this."

Although Misbah tried to play down expectations, they are perhaps greater now than they were during the England series. South Africa's long-run of success, when matched against how they folded in Abu Dhabi and how significantly weakened they will be going into this match, will increase the pressure on Pakistan to beat them.

Without Hashim Amla, South Africa's only centurion from the first Test and one of their best players of spin, their batting looks much thinner. Dale Steyn's tight hamstring could rule him out as well, leaving them short in both departments. The replacements, likely to be Dean Elgar and Rory Kleinveldt, do not pose the same threat and Pakistan will consider themselves in with a real chance should South Africa find themselves needing to field both.

Misbah does not want his men to prepare with that in mind, though. "We don't want to think about that. We are just assuming both [Amla and Steyn] are playing. We don't want to be complacent and think the top bowler and batsman are not playing," he said. "And even if they are not playing, they are still the top side in the world and they are still dangerous."

Misbah suspects a wounded South Africa will demand the best from Pakistan and wants to see his men raise the bar to meet that. "They will know what mistakes they made in the first game and they will have fixed some of them," he said. "We have to improve our game as well, in all three departments, that's the only way we could beat them. This Test could be really tough for us and that's what we are ready for."

The ability to step up when asked to will also be an important step for the development of the Pakistan team. As Misbah discovered in his four years out of the Test team, one-off successes, while memorable, are less important than regular impressive showings.

He believes the win in Abu Dhabi will mean so much more if it is followed by a similar result or a fighting draw to ensure Pakistan win the series. "Winning a game is not going to help any team to improve. Performance on consistent basis makes you a better team and better players," Misbah said. "We really want to win this. Especially in the context of the way we are playing cricket. We want to prove we are a good enough side to beat top sides."

And what about the criticism from people that could easily work its way into the players' minds? Misbah has learnt to shut it out and he will encourage his team to do the same.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Qaasim on October 23, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    Honestly do not understand why people criticze him ... Ok maybe he is not the best captain currently but there is no sutible replacment ... Besides he has always led from the front when batting. If you want to look at slow strike rates maybe you should look at Shehzad, Jamshed, Hafeez because Misbah has a better strike rate than them in odi. Haters can say what they want but my respect for this man will continue to grow!!!!!!!!!

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    I don't know why people critics him. Criticizers should look at his record at International and Domestic Level. People call him TUK TUK but i call him Innings builder. He is always after runs. Shan masood is a good talent. Pak Should put 1 or 2 more youngster in side to build a good team in future.

  • Saud on October 23, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    I see Misbah as an important assett to Pakistan Cricket for a long time to come. Whenever he decides to retire, he would make a good coach. With his MBA he may also make a great PCB Chief someday.

  • Hameed on October 23, 2013, 4:48 GMT

    Forget Misbah's body language, he has proven to world no bowler the world r can get his wicket unless he himself decide to give it away by scoring runs for aggressive but dead Pak players already back in Pavillion. No one scores in Pakistani team except him. Bowlers are the most dangerous in world of cricket and they are winning games but not Pakistani batsmen. If you takeout Misbah in any form of cricket then Pakistani batsman are only school boys against test players. Where is Amir when would he he come back if he comes back then Tenn Pakistani bowlers and Misbah alone are enough to defeat any team in the world. I guarantee Most teams would not cross 150.And Misbah and 10 bowlers, 5 spinners and five fast bowlers can handle that with ease. Every over there should be bowling change to confuse all players, umpires and opposing crowd. As wickets tumble , crowd would want their money back and most cricket fan in the world would becomes Pakistani cricket team fan.

  • Hameed on October 23, 2013, 4:33 GMT

    Good job Firdose Moonda. I think the time has come that you should write an article on Misbah proving that he is a unique great cricketer captain at age 39. Misbah is calm and collected person but Pakistani people want always aggressive and crazy angry players like Shahid Afridi. Pakistan has never produced a peaceful captain in past except A.H. Kardar who defeated England in 1953 , Fazal Mahmood was the key to that win r destroyed England.Incidently He was most handsome man ever born in cricket arena. . Imran Khan or Wasim Akram was never were as handsome as Fazal Mahmood .He even mesmerized Queeen and her sister in UK. check history, If Misbah improve his voice and act more like aggressive captain rather than having an apologizing face to losing team, does not go with national character of Pakistan. To me Misbah is greatest captain ever over 39 who is one man army. If you deduct his score from each match, Pakistan becomes like high school team. Most consistant .

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2013, 4:30 GMT

    Playing professional cricket & do comments on player's performance both are not the same thing. We love to do comments, critics against players every now & then. My dear friends, go & wear the pads, gloves, & stand on the pitch for (1-2 hours), take singles & doubles then only you can understand what is Cricket & how tough to play it. At the age of 39+ years I am sure the comments maker can't even think to run for 1 KM distance.

    PAK cricket should not be blamed always, they are deprived from best facilities & even they really don't get enough opportunities to play against top teams. Who talks more, comments more, do critics they are not a real cricket lover - I believe.

    Bangladeshi players are more aggressive than the Pakistani players but that doesn't mean that "to be aggressive will earn result always". So we all should praise who deserves it not just criticizing & do comments on players. - I believe that is not a good practice.

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2013, 4:27 GMT

    love u misbah (Y) your the prdde of pakistan best of luck for today,s match...

  • bharath74 on October 23, 2013, 2:45 GMT

    It is not only pakistan cricket that needs players like Misbah, it is also their board that need ppl like misbah.

  • Nasser on October 22, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    Misbah has been easily Pakistan's best captain (win/loss ratio basis) and with a team arguably the weakest that Pakistan has had. Further, as a test batsman he is in the top 10. Which other Pakistani batsman is there, apart from Younis Khan?

  • Tom on October 22, 2013, 20:18 GMT

    @Muhammad Zulfiqar Sahito, Yes I did miss that cause I wasn't following Pak cricket after debacle against Zimbabwae but this short series is an another example of Pakistan getting less chances to play against quality opposition. SA is an established side and they are worthy #1 and they achieved it by performing consistently against all sides. We cannot expect them to loose against Zimbabwae and Bangladesh. On the other hand Pakistan still needs to prove it outside UAE.