Misbah-ul-Haq was offered captaincy in a secret meeting at a clerk’s room a month after Pakistan cricket was reeling from the after effects of 2010 spot-fixing scandal.
Six years on he is all set to captain his 50th match when he leads Pakistan in the first of two tests against New Zealand in Christchurch starting from Thursday.
It is a journey of calmness, pacifying matters and briefly leading his team to world number one in Tests.
Befittingly, Misbah took up the challenge in his trademark cool and unflappable manner, restoring the image of his country sullied by his predecessor Salman Butt.
Butt arranged deliberate no-balls during the Lord’s test against England in 2010 in return for money which ended in five years bans on him and accomplices Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif. All three were also jailed in UK.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was already under turmoil, looking for neutral venue and an astute captain for the Test team.
A year before the spot-fixing shocks, they had started to face international isolation after international cricket was suspended in their country following terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus at Lahore in 2009.
Misbah himself was at the crossroads, having been axed from the team after a poor tour of Australia in February 2010 and thinking of burning his cricket kit.
“Those were really tough days,” Misbah told ARY. “All bad thoughts were coming to my mind and suddenly one day I got a call from then PCB chief Ijaz Butt who wanted a meeting with me.
“It was totally unexpected and to keep the meeting secret the chairman met me in a clerk’s room (at PCB headquarter in Lahore) and to my surprise he offered me Test team captaincy,” recalls Misbah.
That was the first step to not only revive Pakistan’s cricketing image, but also of Misbah’s career.
“Overall the journey was tough as spot-fixing had hurt our image but it has so far turned out to be a great journey,” said Misbah, who surpassed legendary Imran Khan’s record of 48 Tests as captain.
“It’s a privilege to better Imran’s record and milestones are always pleasing but for me team’s progress means a lot.”
Misbah not only united a disintegrated bunch of players but also led them to nine undefeated series (five wins, four drawn) on their neutral venue of United Arab Emirates.
He also led Pakistan to 2-2 series draw in England which briefly lifted them to world number one in Test rankings in August this year.
Misbah’s 24-14 win-loss ratio is much better than Imran’s 14-8.
“The most significant similarity between Imran and Misbah is that they earned respect in the dressing room by results and results are important for a captain,” said Ramiz Raja, who played under Imran.
“As compared to Imran, Misbah is low keyed but he too managed to create, like Imran, a net of good players with a set of spinners and fast bowlers which prove that he has an eye for talent.”
Just like Imran, Misbah excelled as player when captain. His Test performance has been massively enhanced considering his 1008 runs in 19 Tests as player compared to 3823 at 54.61 in 49 Tests as skipper.
Pakistan’s new coach Mickey Arthur has been Misbah’s fan.
“Look I have worked with Grame Smith and Michael Clarke,” said Arthur who also coached South Africa and Australia. “Misbah is right up there as an individual and as as character.
“The way he talks and the way he is respected by his players, he is definitive and strong in how he acts, he is fantastic. He really is a true leader of Pakistan.”
Former coach Waqar Younis said Misbah restored Pakistan’s image.
“Hats off to him for the way he lifted Pakistan from a sordid chapter,” said Waqar, who also played under Imran. “He is a great example for players and has led Pakistan admirably well and with his fitness at 42 has set example for the players.”
The next five Tests can further elevate Misbah the captain. If he wins or even draws the two-Test series in New Zealand followed by three in Australia he could end up in the Hall of Fame of captains.