Misbah and Pakistan ODI Cricket

It had been a while since Pakistan won an ODI series or tournament. To be exact, Pakistan lost 4 bilateral series, Asia Cup and World Cup during a period of almost year and a half since the start of 2014. However, as soon as Pakistan started winning, the popular debate of Misbah’s competence as a captain returned with all its zest and fervour. At first, I thought to let it pass just as yet another counter-productive but popular debate but then came across the analysis blog of Umair Qazi in his usual stats driven style – How Pakistan wasted 4 years of ODI Cricket under Misbah. It helped me realize that its not completely a fruitless debate and it does worth emotion and bias free review.

Stats are in front of everyone so are the results and performances, so there’s not much left to be added there. The question that got me thinking was that how come Misbah landed and lasted in the captaincy role for four years in a team like Pakistan where even the best of Cricketers couldn’t manage to lead the team without scandals, controversies or infighting for roughly two years or so. Before being elevated to the rank of captain of the side, Misbah was no stranger to anyone. He had been around and pretty much everyone knew his potential, match winning capability and stature within the greats.

Putting the stats and numbers on the table, we can debate even curse Misbah, in the hindsight, for being such a lousy captain. At times, I also feel like doing so. But then we have to keep in mind that Misbah was never supposed to be a captain. He wasn’t made captain AHEAD of others but BEHIND others. He didn’t become a captain because of his Cricketing talent, career or profile but more due to rubbish and nonsense of everyone else around him with better career, records and talent.

Whether your fault or not, sometimes, you just find yourself facing an avalanche, making future planning a luxury and leaving survival as the only option. When you go through such experiences, you never know if and what will come out of it. Same happened with Pakistan Cricket as well.

Starting from the circumstances Woolmer died, Inzimam retired and Pakistan were knocked out of 2007 WC to to 8 players taking oath to underperform, from Younus’ decline to be Inzi’s successor to his appointment eventually and resignation from captaincy and winning a ban later, from appointment to removal of Malik from captaincy, from ‘Akmalian Sydney stunts’ to those No Balls that attracted Scotland Yard to a Cricket game, from Lahore attack to Ijaz Butt’s antics, from public spat of Malik and Yousuf to PCB’s ban on senior players, from Afridi’s one-match return to Test Cricket to public outbursts on Indians, interior minister, coach and finally the chairman PCB, from Geoff Lawson’s before-time relieving as a coach to Abdul Qadir’s resign as chief selector for selecting T20 WC winning side, to eventually Afridi’s explosion of resign as captain…….. the list just goes on. When such things happen, there is surety of only one thing, that is, there will be no surety.

Misbah was never an outcome of a plan but a byproduct of too many plans going wrong. His appointment was more to cease the slide rather than climb up the mountain. He is good but average player who has done many times better than what he could in stabilizing the rocking boat of Pakistan Cricket.

Just four years of scandal, controversy, infighting free Pakistan Cricket and now, we all can see the difference in how youngsters are getting welcomed into the side as compared to what youngsters had to go through upon joining the league of ‘super-stars’. In the midst of all praise, acknowledgement and support for Azhar Ali, a lot of people have conveniently forgotten that just 2 months ago, they themselves were criticising Misbah and Waqar Younus for recommending Azhar Ali as the future ODI captain.

If Misbah can be blamed for instilling the defensive mindset in otherwise world beater team then he also deserves the credit of picking, grooming and promoting the youngsters like Azhar Ali, Yasir Shah, Sarfaraz and Asad Shafiq. Even on the basis of the stats, if its worth to look at a comparison of stats during and after Misbah’s tenure then a comparison of before and during Misbah’s tenure is also worth taking a look. We didn’t win anything major during his tenure but Pakistan wasn’t a world beater side before him either.

To conclude, Misbah may not have been the right choice at the time of his appointment but it would be equally not-right to judge his services purely on the basis of stats with total ignorance of the circumstances, challenges and priorities he took over the team in. But again, its a never ending debate and one that whole of Pakistan loves to take to the extremes. So let’s agree to disagree and welcome the new phase of Pakistan Cricket that definitely looks brighter than before.

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