As a nation we tend to idolize our heroes and in doing so, we forget that great things can be achieved while being mere mortals.
Imran Khan’s legend was well established long before he won the World Cup in 1992. His charismatic presence on the field, man management skills and exceptional knowledge of the game were attributes that were proven facts even before he set foot down under for the tournament.
Misbah, on the other hand, belongs to an entirely different clan. He is a smooth operator with safety levelheadedness, reliability as a batsman and sobriety being his forte. His expertise lies in bringing stability and in excitability to the game which often gets notoriously labelled as “Tuk Tuk” while he strives to save yet another batting collapse.
Khan’s credibility and self-assurance helped him through many critical phases during his tenure as Pakistan’s skipper. An unconditional confidence in his leadership qualities and absence of an equipotential rival for the throne of country’s favourite sport provided him with opportunities to experiment dauntlessly with youngsters like Inzamam, Mushtaq and Amir Sohail in the biggest cricketing extravaganza.
Misbah,on the contrary, has to do with a very traditional quota of support from the cricket board, bigwigs in the team as well as general public which sways following each series. His method appears very conventional where the board, senior players and thoughts of frantic public outrage hamper even the thought of any initiative needed to produce miracles.
Pakistan team was deemed as unpredictable and erratic in Imran khan’s days as it is today. The post match critique nowadays, however, goes in a completely different direction. While batting, bowling and fielding glitches were discussed as possible avenues of improvement during Khan’s regime, media and public seem undeniably more uncompassionate to Misbah’s slip-ups.
Politics within the team quarters,paucity of match practice and match fixing allegations are the apical and most unrewarding accusations leveled against prominent players of the team if an unacceptable (though not unprecedented) batting collapse drowns us during a seemingly smooth sail. Fear of a relentless social media barrage is something Khan’s men didn’t experience when they walked out of the ground some twenty odd years ago.
Imran successfully lead from the front and as a result commanded respect and obedience even from the most rebellious in the team.Misbah has never experimented with his highly dependable position in the middle order. This strategy appears lacking, specially during times of extreme tremulousness.
Misbah probably has his reasons including but not limited to over reliance of the team on his batting prowess to reach some form of respectability while the rest of the batting line collapses unceremoniously at the other end . We will never know whether Misbah was right or wrong unless he decides to take the leap of faith and comes higher up the order in a critical match situation.
Innovative bowling changes and attacking field placements were attestation of Khan’s genius. Misbah has recently modified his characteristic defensive and at times submissive approach and instilled some much needed aggression into his modus-operandi.
We must also credit the format of the 1992 World Cup which played a crucial role in our successful last minute dash, culminating in the achievement which made legends out of heroes. The format of this current World Cup is a lot more capricious and unforgiving which might not be as kind to Misbah if the team fails to hit top form right from the start.
Imran and Misbah are two contrasting characters, albeit resourced similarly with a fairly limited talent pool, going into the World Cup. Misbah has proven himself to be a fairly successful and consistent leader of men in the last few series but drawing parallels with the legend of Imran khan will only intimidate him prohibitively. He deserves our faith in his abilities rather than the suffocating squeeze and push to mimic the “cornered tiger” vision of Imran Khan.
Lastly, Imran and his men enjoyed an over whelming and unconditional support from the people they represented. Misbah and his team needs our absolute, unequivocal and most importantly unflagging prayers and support if we are to stand any chance of glory in this world cup.