He may not be the smartest man of the field, but Misbah-ul-Haq has become the Pakistani captain with most wins in Test cricket. He may not have the youngest pair of feet but Misbah knows how to command his troops in the ground. With consecutive wins against Australia and New Zealand, King Misbah has gone down in record books as the captain with 15 Test wins for Pakistan; one more than the great Imran Khan and the shrewd Javed Miandad and that too in fewer Test matches.
It seems Misbah’s record of ‘Most Wins As Captains’ is here to stay, just like Roger Federer’s record of 16 Grand Slams and/or Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 100 international centuries. What makes Misbah’s record so special is the lack of world class cricketers in the side — and with that Misbah takes away the tag of being the greatest of them all! Battered morale, beaten ego!
When Imran and Miandad used to lead Pakistan, they had the best players in the side. There was Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Saleem Malik, Inzamam ul Haq in the middle order, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis as the pacers and Abdul Qadir, Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmed as the spinners; whereas Misbah has had to create heroes from nothing. For him, every day has been a crisis since he got a team that was devoid of the youthful Mohammad Aamir, the talented Mohammad Asif and the dashing Salman Butt — all of whom had lost five years of their careers to spot fixing.
Before the Australia series in 2014, there was a moment when it seemed that Younis Khan will not be considered for selection as he had lambasted the selectors for ignoring him for the one day leg of the tour. Thanks to PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan, sense prevailed and Younis was sent to the UAE where he has till now scored as many as four centuries in three Tests, and helped Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad score tons against the once mighty Australians as well.
Neutral Venues, Neutral Umpires: Out of Imran’s and Miandad’s 14, 14 wins in Test cricket, 9 and 10 came on home soil, in front of home crowds, respectively. Misbah has not had the chance of leading his side at home even once.
Remember, unlike the ‘80s and the ‘90s when home umpires used to supervise Test matches, neutral umpires are the norm today. In these circumstances, all one can say is: Well done Misbah!
The weakest bowling attack of ‘em all:
Nobody in his right mind would have been confident of dismissing the opposition twice in a Test match with a bowling attack that didn’t feature Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan or even Wahab Riaz, let alone think of winning a Test match. Well, Misbah showed the world that even without renowned players, a team can win a Test and that too by a huge margin. With his most experienced bowler Mohammad Hafeez (only 35 Test wickets when the series against Australia began) under pressure due to suspicions about his bowling action, he was left with two newcomers — Imran Khan and Yasir Shah — alongside late Test entrant Zulfiqar Babar and the only fit left armer in the squad, Rahat Ali. Unexpectedly, this bowling attack remained unchanged in the three matches and Misbah defeated Australia and New Zealand with what can be called the weakest bowling side in Pakistan’s cricketing history.
If Misbah is to continue winning, he must realise the importance of a specialist wicket keeper behind the stumps. A custodian like Sarfaraz Ahmed who can score runs as well as display solid glovework should be in the final XI rather than any of the K Klan.
There should be no automatic place for anyone in the final XI and that means Shahid Afridi as well. As former skipper Rashid Latif has rightly pointed out, Yasir’s emergence has threatened Afridi’s place in the side just as Afridi’s had put Mushtaq Ahmed’s place in jeopardy in the late ‘90s.
Either Afridi should improve his batting or come out as a wicket-taking bowler who can take wickets rather than just deliver his quota of 10 overs quickly. Two leg spinners can co-exist in the team, though, because Yasir and Afridi are different kinds of leg spinners: one is in the mould of Shane Warne, the other is from Anil Kumble’s school of thought.
And last but not the least, the selectors must go for in-form cricketers when selecting squad for the World Cup rather than go for those who they believe are one-day specialists.
A sensible cricket follower would like to see Azhar in the one-day squad in place of Umar Amin and Younis instead of Umar Akmal, because these players can adapt to the conditions of Australia as they are confident due to their rich form. Younis has proved his credentials to all with his majestic form and there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that age is now only a number. As long as one is performing, it shouldn’t matter. Go Misbah!