Down but not completely out. That appears to be the message Pakistan’s Test captain Misbah ul Haq is giving his detractors. After much hype in the media prior to the final game of the current Pakistan-Australia ODI series, a somewhat despondent Misbah scored some brownie points amongst fans – simply because he briefly substituted for bowler Sohail Tanvir, with no fanfare but plenty of humility.
Only four days ago, Misbah answered an ARY scribe’s question very differently. When asked about rumors of pressure from within the camp, he said “Difficult times do arise in life and must be dealt with strongly.”
So is the poker-faced (mind you, he does smile at my questions), unruffled, calm-demeanoured image unraveling? For someone used to masking his emotions beneath layers of nonchalance, it must be difficult to suddenly display one’s distress at negative public chants.
No one is disputing the fact that when he took over the – some would say – burdened reigns of captaincy in 2010, Pakistan cricket was beleaguered, shambolic and in urgent need of repair. Misbah being 2013’s leading ODI run-scorer, has been hampered by the fact that his own form has had no positive impact on the team. Yet now when the runs have dried up, the situation is being increasingly viewed as a pyramid effect. When the captain is out for a duck, do not expect young, inexperienced batsmen to inspirationally save the day.
T20 captain Shahid Afridi’s post-match press conference following the 3rd one-dayer in Abu Dhabi, did little to dampen rumors. Although he wisely berated his own batting, his “Pakistan captaincy is not easy, but I took up the responsibility for my country,” indicates a willingness to lead the team in the ICC WC 2015.
If this indeed, is the end of Misbah’s ODI captaincy, how will his tenure be remembered? He should be applauded for lifting Pakistani cricket out of the doldrums and forging ahead in tough circumstances. Unfortunately, his seemingly lack of aggressive nature and charisma, means he has always been an easy target for criticism from very vocal former players and self-proclaimed cricket critics alike.
As Australia’s ODI captain George Bailey said after the 3-0 series whitewash, “Misbah always seems calm.”
Perhaps that is what will be missed the most.