Khawar Latif Khan |
Kolkata, 2016. With 19 runs to save in the final over, England was very much in the position of clenching yet another T20 title, when Ben Stokes was hit for 4 back to back sixes, not by a set batsman, not by an experienced hitter, but by a new tail-ender, Carlos Braithwaite. Braithwaite received a huge amount praise, and well-deserved too, for he’d snatched the cup not from the hands but from the mouths of the English. Ben Stokes was criticized, but not for long; not even a year, not even half of it, and everybody forgot that Stokes was hit for four sixes in a row and that too in a World Cup final.
Being made to wear the captain’s armband, when it was no less than a noose, Misbah, with his calm nature, helped the bans-allegations-terror-struck cricket of Pakistan not only to stay alive but also to live up to the standards set in the last decade.
The scene changes, another T20 final, Johannesburg, 2007, this time. The batting side is this close to victory, and the man who’s the reason for the hopes to have stayed alive is still standing. Realizing that he cannot trust the one on the other end, he swings his bat, and just like that, by one single mis-hit, the hopes all die, the dreams are lost, and Pakistan lose the World Cup. Surprisingly, though, nobody praises Joginder Sharma, as they do in the case of Braithwaite, for earning the victory, but they do bash Misbah, and not like Ben Stokes for a few days, no. The criticism continues, and grows with time until as much as a decade passes, that man gives his entire self to the tarnished cricket of this ungrateful nation, but as he retires from all forms of cricket today, we have yet not been able to forgive that one mis-hit of Misbah Ul Haq.
Being a 90’s kid, I, like most of the Pakistani cricket fans, have always enjoyed the sight of the ball being smacked over the fence or that of the hits so high, they obstructed the glaring floodlights, even if the landing point was in the hands of a fieldsman. But then came Misbah, slow, calm, and steady. While for some aggressive Pakistani fans, he might’ve ‘broken cricket beyond repair’ and have ‘taken the charm out of the game’, for me, he redefined cricket. Being made to wear the captain’s armband, when it was no less than a noose, Misbah, with his calm nature, helped the bans-allegations-terror-struck cricket of Pakistan not only to stay alive but also to live up to the standards set in the last decade. His not-so-aggressive nature, though, was never appreciated by the cricket fanatics of Pakistan.
The one thing, the one flaw, which he could never rectify was to stop being so calm and consistent just to please the crowd.
All we have given this veteran is criticism. But let us, for once, reflect upon the times he has proven his worth. We criticized Misbah for being a tuk-tuk, he responded with the fastest test century. We blamed him for not being a good leader, he, despite a crippled batting order and an ever-changing bowling combination, pushed the side to the number one test spot. We bashed him for not standing up to the situation, he stood firm on his crease, while the entire team succumbed to the opponents’ average bowling performances. We chastised him for not winning cups; he gave us the Asia cup. We blamed him for hurting our cricket, he became the best test captain, and that too, without having given the chance to lead his side on his own soil. The one thing, the one flaw, which he could never rectify was to stop being so calm and consistent just to please the crowd.
Now, as another slog-sweep ends Misbah’s career, the social media is full of MisYou hashtags. It is, though, the ‘Mis’ that we’ll miss the most. Not because he has given us a world cup like Imran Khan, not because he had a long 10,000-run test career, but because our cricket fans will lose a target that had been standing there for long. Never again, will the side be 4 down on 30 and still end up posting a decent total on the scoreboard. Never again, will the entire batting order crumble, while that one man will still be standing on to the crease, keeping the hopes alive. Never again, will the whole team fail, while receiving the criticism there’ll be that one face of Mr. Consistent-ul-Haq. Never again, will this cricketing nation witness a 42-year-old’s young performance. Never again, will we get a chance to disgrace our hero. Never again, will we be as ungrateful to anyone as we’ve been to Misbah ul Haq.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.