Is Misbah a T20 material anymore?


Much has been written about Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, his “defensive” strategy on ground and his (individual) records, yet there are demands going rounds that Misbah should be re-inducted into the T20 side, especially in view of the forthcoming T20 World Cup in March 2014, but… should it really happen?

Let’s just recall that what prompted Misbah’s expulsion from the international 20-over format, despite his impressive average and fine strike-rate. Misbah made his T20 debut against Bangladesh in September 2007, though it was not exciting but paved his way into the Pakistan side.

It was World T20 2007 that brought him into the limelight. His hard-hitting, perhaps match-winning strikes in the lower order, earned him a huge fan following and respectable position in the team. What happened in the final game of the mega-event against India is another ordeal that majority of the Pakistanis won’t like to call to mind. Although many experts argue that big players are those who just not bring a match closer to victory, but also finishes it. Unfortunately Misbah doesn’t have any such triumph to his credit.

Misbah has played 39 T20s so far, bagging 788 runs at an average of 37.52. What drew him a wrath of several former players and Cricket fans in particular was his ‘slow’ approach in taking charge against bowlers, even in situations when it requires blistering run-scoring.

The match that compelled Misbah to relinquish his place from the T20 format was a decider of 3-match series against England in the UAE on February 27, 2013. Misbah was the captain and a lot of expectations were attached with him, as he stayed at the crease till the last over of the game. England had set a 128 runs target and equation wise it seemed to be easily achievable by the Pakistan, especially with the likes of Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Muhammad Hafeez in the batting line-up. But what happened that Pakistan lost the game by 6 runs?

Misbah stayed till the last over when 13 runs were required with four wickets in hand. Comes the last ball, 6 were required and he was bowled off a slower one by Jade Dernbach. That defeat intensified clamors that Misbah should be expelled from the shorter version of the game. Let me add here that Misbah had scored 28 of 32 balls with only 2 fours in that decider.

Similar innings by the Pakistan skipper in most of the matches (Both in T20s and ODIs) has earned him a sobriquet ‘Mr. Tuk Tuk’ and many people have strong arguments to justify that label. With the likes of Sharjeel Khan and Sohaib Maqsood that add power to the middle-order, is it wise to recall Misbah, or even demand that move?

Mind you, Misbah has not been retired from the T20s. He was compelled to leave this format after strong public clamour and pressure from the Pakistan cricketing circles, mainly due to his ‘conventional approach’ towards the game.

It’s not only his ‘snail-pace’ batting, but a leadership skill that has raised several questions on his status as a captain in ODIs. Many experts talk about Misbah as only man standing in times of crisis, but what’s prompting other players to falter in most of the matches, under the leadership of Misbah, has not been discussed by any one. Apart from conspiracy theories, it does not even sound rational to think about bringing Misbah in the T20s!