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Misbah: Pakistan's silent guardian

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Misbah-ul-Haq_Pakistan_CricketMisbah-ul-Haq's contribution to Pakistani cricket has been immense. The calm and composed batsman made his International debut 16 years ago against New Zealand and the skipper also boasts a degree in management. Pakistan players are generally known for their ferocious attitude. Players like Aamer Sohail, Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar have been consistently in the news for their loud attitude. But Misbah-ul-Haq is the complete opposite. 

After performing inconsistently with the bat, Misbah was omitted from both the Test and ODI squads. Between 2003 and 2007, the right-hander didn't play a single Test and managed to play a only handful of One Day Internationals. In 2008, with Inzamam-ul-Haq getting old, Pakistan selectors turned to Misbah-ul-Haq to firm up the middle order. Fast forward 9 years, Misbah-ul-Haq has certainly repaid the selectors' decision. 

Until the third ball of the final over in the finals of the World T20 in 2007, Misbah-ul-Haq had fared well. A too-risky scoop shot ended his hopes of securing a major tournament win against arch-rivals India. After having given Pakistan some hope with his sensible batting, Misbah kneeled down in grief. One cannot simply imagine what was going through his mind. Taking his side from 77 for 6 to five runs short of the target, he had done it all. But the sad part is no one will remember what he went through. 

He carried the same form into the three-match Test series against India, scoring back-to-back centuries, including a career-best 161 at Eden Gardens and an unbeaten 133 at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. From being axed a few years back, Misbah made it to the Grade A contract list and was awarded the post of Vice-Captain. 

A slump in form saw him dropped from the Pakistan squad. He went on to miss the England tour which saw the visitors Pakistan being humiliated in the spot-fixing scandal. Misbah's comeback, now as captain, was marked with a couple of half-centuries against South Africa at the UAE. The following tour to New Zealand saw him being dismissed for 99 in the second Test. The knock came under huge pressure as New Zealand were trailing 1-0 in the two-match Test series. His knock helped his side gain a first innings lead and the skipper led by example scoring an unbeaten 70 on the fifth day, which gave Pakistan a series win over New Zealand in New Zealand. 

Against West Indies in the Caribbean, his century in the second Test helped Pakistan draw the series level. That stalemate was important for Pakistan Cricket as they were in a crisis situation after having bowed out of the semi-finals in the 2011 World Cup, suffering defeat at the hands of India. He had to wait for another couple of years for his next Test century. By that time, Pakistan had completed their revenge over India, winning a bilateral ODI series in India. His century came in a victory over South Africa as his knock helped Pakistan gain a crucial first innings lead and he later guided his side to a victory chasing a small target. 

He went on to score three centuries on the trot in the UAE in 2014 against formidable bowling attacks - Australia and New Zealand. Barring a failure against New Zealand, Misbah was always among the runs. He went on to lead his side to series victory against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka away from home and a series victory against England in the UAE. The series victory over Sri Lanka was a special one as the side won the third and the final Test chasing 377 runs. Thanks to Younis Khan's magnificent 171 and useful knocks from Masood and Misbah, Pakistan scripted a memorable victory. 

Pakistan travelled to England in the summer of 2016. In the first match, the skipper scored a match-winning century before Yasir Shah went on to floor the English batting lineup. Pakistan went on to lose the next two matches before comprehensively winning the final match to level the series at 2-2. A couple of miserable tours in the Oceania continent left a dent in his captaincy record. 

Playing his last series against West Indies, with all to play for in the final test, Misbah's career draws to an end. His record on being stranded at 99 goes to show that the man never cared much for his personal records and played for the team. Pakistan will surely miss a gem of a cricketer in Misbah-ul-Haq - the cricketer who silently faced everything and withstood everything for his team.

 

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