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Hats off to Misbah and Younis

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Misbah_ul_Haq_Pakistan_cricketFor quite some time now, Pakistan cricket has been dogged by ups and downs, courtesy intra-national politics and the current geopolitical clime. This has been the reason behind their ‘home’ matches being played ‘away,’ though close to home.

While one may not count Misbah among the grittiest of captains from the last century and more, let us doff our hats, friends, to this gutsy leader of men, who has seen his team ‘from the log cabin to the White House’ as it were. Forty-two years old and soon to retire, Misbah made his debut when he was 27 years old in Test cricket, and a year later in ODIs. When he played his first T20 match, he was 34 years old.

Over a 15-year period (with long interruptions in between, after the last of which he made a comeback at the age of 33), he has played 65 Test matches (when ordinarily, anyone playing for this long consistently would have played 140 or more). Of these 65 Tests, he has captained his side in 46 (being made captain for the first time when he was 36 years old), and won 22 - a success rate of 48%.

Interestingly enough, his success rate is almost the same as his Test batting average. This success rate makes him the most successful captain of Pakistan, something which another successful skipper, one Imran Khan Niazi (a relative of Misbah’s), would be proud of.

They say that late blossoms last longer and Misbah bears testimony to that. He is a great inspiration to thousands of youngsters who would do well if they imbibe his ‘never-say-die’ attitude and fight their battles, no matter what their fields of endeavour in life are.

Cricket has seen the likes of Michael Hussey before – men who got the baggie green cap very late in their cricketing careers, and never looked back. For those who did not know, Hussey debuted in Test cricket when he was 30 years old, played for 8 years and scored 6235 runs at an average of 51.

Younis_Khan_Pakistan_CricketThe ‘ul-Haq’, Misbah shares with a former captain, and the ‘Khan Niazi’ with a much-earlier one who also happens to be a relative of his. Along with Test cricket, he also donned the mantle of captaincy in ODIs and led his team to 45 victories in 87 matches (well over 50% success rate). And of course, he had a big hand in elevating Pakistan to the top of the ICC Test Rankings table in 2016.

He did so not just with his cricketing brains, but with his bat. He shared the Man of the series award for Pakistan’s tour of England with 284 runs (1 century and 2 half-tons) scored at an average of 40, he provided the mortar to the cement supplied by a teammate who has gone unsung for long…more about this teammate later.

One may wish to think what would have happened if things had been normal on the Pakistan-front. Perhaps, Misbah’s success rate would have been in the 60-70% range? Or perhaps he would have scored a lot more runs? But then as Oscar Cainer had written recently in the astrological daily forecast for this author’s sun-sign, ‘A perfect easel and a perfect brush do not a great artist make.’

Diamonds are formed under great pressure, exerted by the coal above them! It is because of this that what Misbah has achieved as captain is laudable. Extremely praiseworthy. Any easel which is out of one’s country is not the perfect one for a cricketer usually – and in this case, ‘home’ has not been ‘home’ per se for the Pakistani cricketers. But Misbah has carried his ‘near-perfect brush’ with him – leadership skills honed in difficult situations (His MBA coming in handy here, perhaps) and patient and calm batsmanship which has inspired all the cricketers he has played with, as captain and teammate, over the years.

That brings us to the unsung hero who was alluded to a little earlier.

Younis Khan, a former captain. He became the first Pakistani cricketer to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket, with Javed Miandad’s 8832 runs a distant second. He has scored more 100s than 50s, at once demonstrating his effectiveness at converting a 50-plus score to a three-figure one.

If he had opted to play on after the West Indies tour, he would surely have surpassed Dravid’s 36 centuries and who knows, even Ponting’s 41. Why I say this is because Younis Khan ended the tour of England with a match-winning double hundred! Among the 34 three-figure scores, are five double hundreds and one triple – five of these 200+ scores being scored in venues outside Pakistan – Chittagong, Bengaluru, London, Abu Dhabi and Harare. It is a startling feat indeed to have 10,000 runs in 115 Tests. Of course, being a number 3 (or 4) batsman, he would have got to bat twice in most of these Test matches.

Misbah, at 42 and Younis at 39, have shouldered a lot of responsibility for the Pakistan team. Truly, they would also have inspired hundreds of up-and-coming youngsters in the country by now…many of whom would soon get chances to represent their country on the international level. They pass the baton on in 2017.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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