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In praise of Misbah the Skipper

In praise of the skipper Misbah as a skipper provides the stability and calm that is so desperately in short supply in Pakistan cricket. With him in charge, we can be assured that he would not make an elementary mistake. A mistake which was always on the cards when lesser individuals were at the helm of affairs. Consider: Champions trophy semi final 2004. Pakistan Vs West Indies. Rose Bowl in September. Overcast conditions tailor made for swing bowling. Inzi wins the toss and God knows why, chose to bat! I have two explainations for that. 1. It was Bob Woolmer’s plan and Inzi just agreed to it. 2. Inzi wanted to say ‘We shall field’, but came up with ‘We shall bat’. Knowing someone like Inzi, I think it’s a 50-50 chance of probability between these two options! Result: An inglorious spineless capitulation to the un fancied Windies. Scene two. Sydney 2010 Jan. second test. We had lost the opening test but were now facing the Aussies in a ground that has been relatively better for us. We had the amazing first innings scores and had a lead over Aussies for a change. The second innings started favourably again and Aussies were 8 down for a lead of 80. Enter Peter Siddle. With Yousaf in charge, he started some ridiculous tactics of keeping fields of 8-2 for the well settled Hussey and concentrated on trying to get Siddle out. Siddle kept on blocking and Hussey kept on plundering runs. Result, the lead swelled to 170 odd and we lost the game after suffering from a second innings batting collapse. If Misbah was to be in charge in either of those two occasions, I can assure you that such elementary mistakes would not have happened. He as a skipper makes a plan according to his strengths and executes it with finesse of a shrewd general. It was tactics like these when he cornered the top Test team in the world in deserts of UAE and shredded them to a humiliating 3-0 whitewash. His bowling changes, field placements and tactical manoeuvres are all exactly according to the demands of the situation. Times when he would choose to bring on his main strike bowlers on, is a great study for all students of the game. He clearly has the benefit of being ably supported by a good back room staff, but execution of the plan that has been made according to the rapidly changing situations which may arise, demands a cool unflappable mind, which thankfully he possesses. He was NOT responsible for the loss in WC semi. He was not the skipper. It was Afridi. We lost because we dropped Tendulkar almost 5 times allowing him to score 85. We had the Indians on the mat but allowed them to post a semi respectable total and then crumbled under pressure. Afridi, bless him, has not been blessed with much thinking capabilities. The whole situation was much beyond his intellect. Misbah remains one of the most successful Test captains for us. His win ratio of 45% is second only to that of Akram (counting at least 20 Tests as skipper) and in ODIs he is at par with the likes of Akram, Waqar and Inzi (counting at least 50 ODIs as skipper- win ratio of around 60%). (Interestingly win ratios for Imran 55% and Javed 45%). When it comes to his much talked about ‘slow’ batting, we all know that if your team is 3 down for 25 (which is how he normally finds himself in when he comes in to bat), you can not expect him to start scoring at over 6 an over. He always plays according to the situation and if those around him do their jobs to even half of their abilities, we would win far more games. Strike rate of Misbah for ODIs is by the way, better than both Javed Miandad (67) and Imran Khan (72). His strike rate of 73 is only marginally lower than that of Yousaf, Younis and Inzamam (all around 74-75). That again blows the theory out of water that Misbah bats much slower than Inzi , Yousaf and Yunis et al. Much is talked about the attacking batting styles of Javed and Imran. When in the final of World Cup of 1992, Ramiz and Amer Suhail got quickly out, Imran famously promoted

himself up the order and with Javed laid the foundations of a competitive total. Their strike rates in that land mark innings were a sedate 63 and 55! Misbah's in his much maligned WC semifinal loss was a healthier 75. Perceptions are hard to get rid of. Misbah has for whatever reasons attracted the tag of a 'tuc tuc' batsman. That is unfortunately going to stay with him. He is in reality a very good ODI and test batsman. What I would say however is that a part of Misbah legacy would be the number of games in which he nearly got us over the line, but could not force a win. It is after all, a team game.

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