Thursday, January 23, 2014

Misbah ul-Haq: the most honourable cricketer of the modern era! British newspaper terms Misbah the best of the modern era

By   Last updated: January 21st, 2014

Misbah is as thoughtful and measured in interviews as he is at the crease, although he has occasionally hit back at critics who accuse him of being a defensive captain. In the latest victory, his captaincy was imaginative and inspirational.

This article is written by the cricket novelist Richard Heller and Peter Oborne
Who is the most admirable cricketer in the world? Some might name Michael Clarke, who has done so much to turn the Australian team around, both with the bat and also brilliant captaincy.
Some might well suggest Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who again and again digs the woeful West Indian batting line up out of trouble. But I would like to nominate the Pakistan captain Misbah ul-Haq, who last night led his team to an improbable and famous victory over Sri Lanka.
No one, not even the great Imran Khan, has had an easy ride leading Pakistan, but Misbah has had the toughest task of them all. Like his predecessors he has had to cope with infighting, selectorial caprice and the notoriously chaotic administration of Pakistan cricket.
But on top of that he had to take over a team which had been tainted and demoralised by the spot-fixing scandal of 2010. Most important of all, he has had to lead an international team in exile since the horrific attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in 2009. All of Misbah’s 27 Test matches as captain (and 86 one-day internationals) have been played away from Pakistan.
The latest Test victory was Misbah’s twelfth as captain, with seven losses and eight draws. The highlight was the 3-0 sweep over England at “home” in the United Arab Emirates in 2012.
As a win ratio, it put him ahead of Imran’s 14 wins from 48 matches (although to be fair, Imran often rested himself against lesser opponents). Like Imran, he has become a better batsman as captain, averaging 33.6 before and 61.4 afterwards.
Misbah was a desperation choice as captain. He was appointed at age 36, after a stop-start Test career in which he was regularly dropped and had to force his way back by consistent scoring in domestic cricket. Shaharyar Khan, the former head of Pakistan’s cricket administration, believes that his background kept him out of favour when Inzmamam ul-Haq was Pakistan’s captain.
Misbah comes from the same Niazi clan as Imran’s father, and he holds an MBA from Lahore’s highly-regarded University of Management Science.
Misbah rejects any suggestion of prejudice against his education, and suggests modestly that he could not break into Pakistan’s powerful middle order at the time.
Misbah is as thoughtful and measured in interviews as he is at the crease, although he has occasionally hit back at critics who accuse him of being a defensive captain. In the latest victory, his captaincy was imaginative and inspirational.
He has spoken of the stresses of leading a team in exile, pointing out how few of his players have played in front of their home supporters. (Saeed Ajmal, his star bowler, has played none of his 31 Tests in Pakistan). Misbah’s travels in 2013 make his point for him.
They began in India, then took him to South Africa, Scotland, Ireland, England, West Indies, Zimbabwe, the UAE, South Africa again and back to the UAE. In that year he played just one first-class match in Pakistan compared to nine, all Test matches, overseas. He managed six one-day matches within a fortnight for his home team in Pakistan (Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited) compared to 34 overseas.
One wonders how much longer Misbah can continue to sustain the performance and mentality of his players. There are many other things which this intelligent and highly qualified man could do with his life. He is now nearly 40. When he finally steps down as a player, Pakistan, and indeed international cricket, will sorely miss him.
Let’s return to Pakistan’s famous victory yesterday. On the fourth day, the match seemed to be dying of inanition. But on the last, Pakistan chased down a target of 302 in just 57.3 overs. Few teams have ever scored over 300 to win a Test match and none of them achieved this with such a fast run rate. Their 5.25 an over edged out the West Indies’ 344 for 1 against England, when Gordon Greenidge belted a double century.
Fittingly, the Pakistan captain was at the crease with 68 not out when his team clinched their five-wicket victory. In a crucial partnership of 109 in 20 overs he helped his younger partner, Azhar Ali, to a century and brought Pakistan to the edge of victory. In Pakistan’s first innings Misbah had made 63, initially joining another centurion, Ahmed Shehzad, and then guiding Pakistan’s long tail. He shared six partnerships which produced 136 runs.
This is guts and determination of a very high order indeed. As national captain operating in circumstances of unprecedented adversity, he can now be classified in the same category as those two cricketing legends:
Abdul Hafeez Kardar and Imran Khan.

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