Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |
A last-minute heave from Shanon Gabriel not only brought about a thrilling end to an attritional test match but also gave Pakistan its first ever victory in the Caribbean. It was an emphatic end to careers of Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq, the latter being statistically Pakistan’s most successful captain. The 43-year old veteran has ended on a high, something which had remained elusive to many all-time greats from Pakistan. The euphoria on winning in the West Indies is such that it discarded the abysmal state of West Indies cricket. Social media is all-praise for the Pakistan team and its outgoing captain, a man who was over-praised and over-criticized throughout his career. Thus it becomes important to understand as to who was Misbah? Was he the Douglas McArthur of Pakistan Cricket? Was he the epitome of the art of batting? Was he a Rommel-like Commander who dashed his way through? Let us understand the man who served his country with pride, honor and dignity.
The Lackluster Early Years
Misbah gave Pakistan much-needed stability; there were no controversies; the team did well in patches. He certainly deserves credit for it.
The scathing remarks of former English great Jeff Boycott did not dissuade the selectors from giving the then 27-year old Misbah Ul Haq a ticket to New Zealand where he made his test debut in 2001. The start was unimpressive, to say the least, and his limited natural abilities are glaringly visible. Fast forward to 2002, the ODI debut was against the same opposition but in the bustling city of Lahore. His early days depicted that he was a grinder but had the muscle to hit if the ball was in his zone: he deposited Shane Warne’s deliveries in the stands of the Nairobi Gymkhana stadium in 2002. However, his modest performances coupled with the presence of batting maestros like Inzamam Ul Haq and Muhammad Yousaf ensured that he roughed out in domestic cricket.
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Blooming in the mid 30’s
The gritty Misbah compiled heaps of runs in domestic cricket and waited for his time, which came after Pakistan’s ignominious exit from the 2007 World Cup. He surprised one and all at the inaugural World T20 and brought Pakistan within touching distance of clinching the title. His cheeky shot in the final was unfairly berated by many but his exploits ensured that he remained an important part of all formats till the ill-fated Sydney test in 2010. He was a very consistent batsman, pitching in important runs but without having a significant impact on the match. His style was not pleasing to the eyes. His range of shots was limited; a blocking spree was broken by sporadic mighty sixes only if the ball was in his zone. However, despite not being aesthetically pleasing he found a way to survive and thrive. Again, we must remember that he employed whatever means he had for his team and his country.
Taking over the reins of captaincy
Misbah Ul Haq’s assumption of captaincy came out of nowhere at a time when the curse of match-fixing had tainted the image of the team. Initially, he was the skipper of the test side only but later took over the mantle of the ODI and T20 sides in 2011. For the consumption of readers, we will not focus on the specifics but will look at his highly touted leadership a tad more critically.
There is more to cricket than mere statistics without contextualizing them. As aforementioned, Misbah, on mere statistics is more successful than the legendary Imran Khan but that does not tell the whole story. There is a lot more to leadership that what meets the eye.
Leadership is the art of influencing your under command and making them into an outfit which is better than what it was before the leader took over. In the process, the leader has to ensure that he, from being indispensable to his unit becomes dispensable whenever he relinquishes command.
Misbah gave Pakistan much-needed stability; there were no controversies; the team did well in patches. He certainly deserves credit for it. His role has been well-celebrated by his cronies on Social Media and scribes writing for cricket websites. While they praised him entirely when Pakistan won, they blamed players when the results went against the team. It must be borne that the leader is responsible for everything that happens under his command. A skipper cannot be given the whole credit if the appropriate responsibility of defeat is not apportioned.
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Misbah must be appreciated for leading Pakistan to a short-lived number one ranking in test ranking. In the same way, he must be chastised for the degeneration of our team in the limited overs format. As leadership is about influencing, he has a major role in nurturing a defensive, timid and listless outlook of the team. The point that his social media brigade gives in his favor is that he was a “Lone Warrior.” This is an indictment of his leadership credentials. A general worth his salt leads in a way that his under command are able to carry out the entrusted tasks. Misbah’s ability to outperform his team members may be reflective of his better batting abilities but is indicative of his tepid leadership.
As he leaves, our test side is feeble and its ability to compete in the future is doubted. The team is back to square one; this is an indication that despite 7 years of stability the outfit is not much stronger than what it was when Misbah took over.
In all, Misbah was neither a great leader nor a fantastic batsman as portrayed by his dedicated clique. However, Misbah was a humble, dedicated and honest servant of his country. He can hang his boots with the satisfaction that he gave all that he had to his country. He certainly has a name in Pakistan and world cricket which can neither be downgraded nor exacerbated.
Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub Editor at Global Village Space. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.