Six reasons why Misbahul Haq should not be blamed

Published: November 18, 2013

If anyone has seen Misbah at the crease, they know that he is patient, disciplined and tries to play a long innings. PHOTO: AFP

I wouldn’t fault Pakistan’s ODI and Test match captain, Misbahul Haq, if he is just a teeny-weeny bit happy that Pakistan lost both T20s to South Africa. If I was in his place, I’d be somewhat pleased as well.

“Blame it on me now!” I’d say while grinning from ear to ear.

Recently, it seems that the maligned Misbah has become the Malala of Pakistan cricket; everything is his fault. When he plays defensive cricket because he knows that the rest of his team can barely qualify when under pressure, he is accused of pedestrian batting. But if he throws down the gauntlet, he is accused of being irresponsible. He is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.

In the first ODI against South Africa, where Pakistan lost by one run, Misbah was the second highest run scorer; batting at a decent strike rate considering the circumstances. Ultimately, the team’s incapable clowns failed because they were lost without him. Was he expected to come out and hold their bats for them?

Leading such an incompetent team, it is no wonder Misbah plays with extreme caution.

Interestingly enough, it hasn’t been the Pakistani fans gunning for Misbah, but rather, our cricket ‘experts’, who are laying the entire blame on the gutsy middle order player.

Perhaps, like the rest of us, former cricketers such as Mohammad Yousuf and Shoaib Akhtar are frustrated by the team’s performance, or perhaps are envious that at the age of nearly 40, Misbah is fitter than they were at the age of 30.

But surely, few are more irritated than Misbah with Pakistan’s performances. After Pakistan started slipping incredibly from what seemed like an unassailable position in the first ODI, the normally calm Misbah could be seen in the dressing room, pacing behind the coach like a caged panther, shaking his head and shouting out in vexation.

From what I recall of a survey shown on CNBC TV, over 60% of Pakistani fans said they did not blame Misbah for the team’s terrible ODI performance. On the other hand, around 20% blamed the Pakistan captain, while the rest, who clearly had more important things on their minds, actually said they didn’t care either way.

Even opposing fast bowler Dale Steyn was surprised that Misbah wasn’t in the T20 squad. In a post-match interview, he laughed with disbelief,

 “I didn’t realise [that] Misbah wasn’t playing until they [Pakistan] were about six down. And I thought, where is he?”

The comments against Misbah are now making it clear that our delusional cricket experts, similarly to experts in other fields of the nation, are looking for an easy scapegoat rather than try and find a viable solution to a complex issue.

Here are six false assumptions about Misbah and the boys in green:

Assumption 1:  We have a team of lions

As Dawn reported,

‘A senior member of the Pakistan cricket board recently said one should not expect the team to win when a pack of lions was led by a “jackal”.’

I don’t know which psychedelic flavor was added to this PCB member’s shisha, but the Pakistani cricket team is certainly not packing lions. In fact, the only feline that recently graced the cricket field during a Pakistan match was that bad luck black billie during the fourth ODI.

Our opening batsman is Mohammad Hafeez, who going by his scores is more of a duck than a lion. The other openers such as Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad are promising, but still far from consistent.

Sohaib Maqsood could be our next big thing, but needs grooming and apparently has a history of fitness issues. Meanwhile, our last next big thing, Umar Akmal, although supremely talented, bats like he had been dropped as a baby by his nurse. This could have been the same hospital where Shahid Afridi was born, considering that ‘Boom Boom’ continues to act like that actress who was hot 20 years ago, but now needs to zip her dress up and start acting her age.

In our bowling department, the only lion we boast is an old one; Saeed Ajmal is unfortunately in his mid-30s and nearing retirement.

So, regrettably, we are less a team of lions, and more like a misfit zoo with old animals who used to draw a crowd and young animals who are still chasing their tails.

Assumption 2:  the rest of the team tries to bat like Misbah

Recently, Mohammad Yousuf told a few jokes when criticising Misbah. The first was that our batsmen are following Misbah as a role-model, which is why they are unable to score runs and thus win matches.

If anyone has seen Misbah at the crease, they know that he is patient, disciplined and tries to play a long innings. Clearly, this is the exact problem with Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez and rest of the batsmen.

Obviously, they are trying too hard to emulate Misbah by occupying the crease.

Why, just the other day I was screaming at Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal for playing patiently like Misbah, rather than trying to irresponsibly hit the ball out of the park.

Assumption 3: Misbah should bat at number three and lead from the front

This is another joke courtesy of Mohammad Yousuf, who says that our batsmen’s technique is poor is because Misbah doesn’t have the guts to come at the number three batting position.

First of all, let’s think of all the times that Mohammad Yousuf as Pakistan captain came in at one down. Under his captaincy, Pakistan’s batting also struggled, and although the fans begged MoYo to come in at number three, he stuck to his favorite position in the middle order. So please, as great a batsman as you were Mr Yousuf, practice what you preach.

Secondly, Misbah coming in at one down is only a stop gap solution and won’t improve any cricketer’s technique. Our batsmen have always had deep technical flaws that come from our terrible grassroots standards. How can one blame Misbah for that?

Watching prolific domestic cricket scorer, Umar Amin, play against international bowlers, one can easily notice flaws in his technique where he is trapped on the crease playing across the line. According to MoYo, Misbah is to blame for Amin’s terrible technique and not our flawed domestic circuit.

Assumption 4: Pakistan needs Inzamamul Haq as the batting coach

I would say that Yousuf and Inzamam adversely affected Pakistan cricket by introducing a needless religious focus in the dressing room. This made many of our cricketers uncomfortable, as evident from statements that leaked out in the media. Now, Yousuf is lobbying for Inzamam to become Pakistan’s new coach.

While Inzamam was a great batsman, his technique wasn’t fabulous in testing conditions. One has to look at Inzamam’s World Cup record, where aside from 1992, he was a huge disappointment. Furthermore, Inzamam’s record in Australia and South Africa, where the conditions really test a batsmen’s technique, was quite ordinary. In Australia he averaged a mediocre 30, while in South Africa, he scored at an average of 31 runs per Test match innings.

Assumption 5: Saeed Ajmal would be a better captain than Misbah

Like a blind man praying to find something in the darkness, both Yousuf and Akhtar are insisting that Ajmal would be a better captain than Misbah. That’s like selling your car and buying a similar used model as a replacement.

You can see how the desperate minds of Yousuf and Akhtar are working. Currently, we don’t have a single reasonable standby for Misbah, because frankly, not one cricketer is an automatic pick in the team, aside from Ajmal. But is that a valid enough reason to pick the off-spinner as the new captain?

Ajmal has already stated that he wishes to retire after the World Cup, so appointing him as captain doesn’t seem like sensible thinking. Also, the complaints Yousuf and Akhtar have about Misbah involve his batting.

Well, newsflash, Ajmal can’t actually bat!

On the field, Misbah is a decent captain. His field settings are on the mark and he attacks new batsmen by blocking singles and employing close in fielders. He is certainly a better captain than Yousuf ever was. One can recall the Sydney Test, where Yousuf suddenly set defensive fields, even though the Australian tail-enders were exposed. The Australian late order took advantage of Yousuf’s perplexing tactics, moving from a shaky 257-8 to a score of 381! It was some of the worst captaincy in the history of Pakistan cricket.

If the complaints about Misbah’s captaincy are about his approach to batting, why replace him with a bowler and at what cost?

Will Ajmal continue to bowl as well under the pressure of captaincy?

Will this appointment create rifts in the dressing room?

Keep in mind, Misbah was the one who brought Ajmal into the team, so it would surely create friction in the dressing room.

Assumption 6: Misbah only makes runs for himself, and not the team

This is a theory that comes less from experts and more from some members of our public.

Cricket is a team game and one cricketer can’t win a match alone. I remember when Sachin Tendulkar was India’s only good batsmen; he would score countless runs, but often end up on the losing side. Was this Sachin’s fault, or the fault of the rest of his team?

Blaming Misbah for not being on the winning side would be like having an 11 propeller boat and being angry at the only propeller that is working.

At a strike rate of 73.39, Misbah has scored 1,119 runs from 26 matches, making him the lead scorer in ODI matches this year.

Is the strike rate quite slow?

Yes, but keep in mind that Misbah almost always comes to bat in a crisis, where he is forced to drop anchor. Does the Misbah propeller spin slowly because it is designed that way or because it has to carry the work load of 10 other propellers?

Let’s look at one of the few matches where Misbah did not come in under pressure. During the first Test match against South Africa, Misbah came in after a fantastic opening stand and scored an excellent century that was fairly aggressive by his standards.

No, Misbah is certainly not perfect, but it is obvious that he is doing the best he can with the cards he was dealt.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Waseem Sarwar

    I am quite shocked that our public and “experts” didn’t blamed misbah for degrading currency and pathetic law and order situation. On a serious note, Misbah is the only proper batsman in our team currently.Recommend

  • Umair

    u hvnt spoken abt his team selections which has been pathetic too!! as u said that Shehzad, Hafeez, A.Shafiq, Afridi have been useless than y he insist to continue playing with them when he knows they cant perform n dont hv the capability to do well consistently? y not give players with better records a chance? n wats the point of selecting 6 bowlers n only five front line batsman when ur batsman are struggling?Recommend

  • Sajjad Janjua

    for the first ODI if you remember Hafeez was similing and hiding his happiness with is hand and Misbah was clearly in shock and worry – this simply proves Mr Hafeez is responsible for the ODI defeats he has some other agenda other than country InterestsRecommend

  • Shane

    With the form Misbah is in .. he should be playing as a batsman in the T20s also… T20 WC is just around the corner..Recommend

  • CopyPaste Zindabad

    “So, regrettably, we are less a team of lions, and more like a misfit zoo with old animals who used to draw a crowd and young animals who are still chasing their tails.”
    Spot on :DRecommend

  • Shafiq Ahmed

    Even though I dont believe Misbah is responsible for the recent losses against SA, there are a few things to note. Misbah’s technique against fast bowlers is horrible and Yousuf was bang on pointing at that. Secondly, the writer here questioned Inzi’s technique, I would say he was the batsman whom even Allan Donald, Shane Warne, Mcgrath, Kumble and Murali paid tribute when he was retiring. Yup, the history suggest that after Miandad, Pakistan didn’t have batsmen who performed on fast and bouncy pitches and even during Miandad’s tenure I remember Pakistan flopping badly in World Series in Australia soon after 92 World Cup. So Pakistan’s batting resources have always been thin and have mostly been reliant on one or two big names. Certainly Misbah is a decent batsman with a good enough average, he can’t be termed as a batting great. As far as his captaincy is concerned, I guess, currently, Misbah is the right choice as a captain as we dont know a gung-ho style of captaincy in this batting crisis but I still advocate Misbah’s promotion up the order. That would show the batsman lower down the order how to bat in partnerships and build an innings.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    a good player plays according to the situation of match, the author talked abt Inzy, at numerous occasions he took team to victory all alone and most of his centuries r in wins
    Misbah is not even an average player, when required rate is 7 per over, he blocks

    read Wisden’s review of WC semifinal, that is not written by a Pakistani!!Recommend

  • FedUp

    You clearly need a dose of cricketing knowledge. It’s not the captain that selects the team, but the clowns that call themselves ‘selectors.’ A captain only has a say in the team selection, but the ultimate decision rests with the selectors. Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Don’t know much about cricket. Don’t care. Is Ajmal a Pakistani player? Good to know.

    But the blog…absolutely hilarious.Recommend

  • ahmed juneid

    PCB wants a “yes sir” kind of a person who obeys the orders of the Board.Probably because they want to incorporate PARCHI players like Farhat,umar amin,malik,anwar ali etc.This can only be done if a weak captain who is low in confidence stays as the captain.Recommend

  • ahmed juneid

    Shahid afridi was sidelined because he was an honest captain and was against incorporating Imran Farhat into the team a couple of years back.The result being that he was thrown (afridi) and the PARCHI player Farhat keeps coming in and out of the teamRecommend

  • ahmed juneid

    One might wonder if the PCB is so impressed by Misbah as captain, then why are they not announcing him as the skipper for a longer period instead of series to series basic.Probably because they do not want Misbah to exercise his own policies want him to remain low on confidence and is in no position to argue with the Chairman etc so that the board keeps bringing PARCHI players from time to time.Recommend

  • ahmed juneid

    The person who is most responsible for the PCB mess is INTIKHAB ALAM.You name a committee and somehow or the other he is siting / heading that committee.He was the one to bring in Dav Watmore and i would not be surprised if a news comes out in the future that PCB heads charge commission from Dav watmore (against his salary of Rs 1,600,000/-) for incorporating him as the coach.Recommend

  • Mubashir Sabir

    You are absolutely right Sajjad. He is such a hypocrite person. In 4th ODI, he deliberately create problem for well settled Ahmed Shehzad, and he was run out by AB and in the following overs he was bowled by Tahir. Our team came under pressure and the same happend which i was fearing Pakistan “Lost” :(. When Shehzad was run out, i was sure that in following overs Hafeez will be back to pavilion soon. I am observing him in every match and he exhibited the same irresponsible performance many time. Only those player must be the part of playing squad who put their country’s interest ahead over their personal interests.Recommend

  • RIP Cricket

    Seriously Misbah !!!! ……. Yawning :ORecommend

  • Raheel

    100% agreed. I want to add a bit. Mohammad Yusuf was a great player but he thinks that due to Misbah his career ended prematurely. Same case with Shoaib Akhtar, who could not play his final ODI game due to selection of Wahab over him.
    They are just trying to take revenge ….
    I have a request for both of them. For God sake please don’t pressurize only player who is performing in team.Recommend

  • Raheel

    I am happy that he isn’t playing T20. Alteast performance of T20 shows that its not fault of Misbah that Pakistani are losing and T20 games also depicts how important Misbah is for middle order of Pakistan.Recommend

  • HRK

    A pretty good read! Great one liners about Umar Akmal, etc. Misbah would be to blame if ANY of the rest of the “pack of lions” can stay on the crease for a good amount of time. Anchoring the innings is always needed because of the way our team bats. If he could get support from Nasir Jamshed and Sohaib Maqsood and if Umar Akmal could stay on enough, we could have a formidable line-up. Seeing how he led Faisalabad Wolves in CLT20, he should have been in the T20 team as well. It was pathetic to lose the 2nd T20 with that long of a lineup.Recommend

  • Shoaib Tariq

    I recently heard Mohammed Yousuf criticize Misbah’s strike rate. Which came as a surprise because both these batsman have an almost identical strike rate. MoYo also called T20 cricket a ‘joke’. Which was another surprise because I remember he retired just because he wasn’t selected for the inaugural T20 world cup. All these so called cricket experts act as if they’ve never lost a match. They act as if they’ve never under performed. This is the same Mohammed Yousuf who lost six test matches in a row including the Sydney test which we should’ve won easily. Yousuf was a great batsman but he’s proved to be a very hypocritical person.Recommend

  • Raheel

    People keep on praising shahid Afridi who fails in his most of the matches but cant forgive misbah for his 2 bad innings ….
    I know it was bad inning we don’t need to consult Wisden review for that. But he was also selected in ICC eleven in Champion’s Trophy 2013, please give him his due respect …Recommend

  • MJ

    Judging by the recent performances he is the only batsman in the team who can legitimately retain his position in the teamRecommend

  • MZM

    O come on ask Misbah to face Steyn’s new ball. Everyone will get to know how capable he is. One should give credit to Nasir Jamshed, who being a left hander, manages Styen’s outswingers and removes shine from new ball and actually makes it feasible for those coming down. We all saw how vulnerable Ahmed Shehzad, Hafeez and Sohaib Maqsood were against new out swinging ball.

    Misbah is a slow starter. He later compensates for it through boundaries. But just imagine when Misbah completely blocks one end in the start of his innings and doesn’t rotate strike, doesn’t it seem natural that the player at the other end will start taking risks due to scoreboard pressure. Misbah’s score line usually seems like 000001000100006000000.

    Recommend

  • Saad Rafi

    mr misbah fan!!!! ……..inzamam ul haq is regarded as one the best players of fast bowling so no questions about his technique……….and u should be shameful for ur sixth assumption…. how can religious (islamic) focus be needless for the dressing room…….its the best source of mental toughness….. do we have anything else to enlighten our minds and get some direction……btw i read ur miley cirus article which means that u dont even deserve to live in pakistanRecommend

  • Osama Siddique

    Excellent article. Well reasoned, logical and right on the money. I could not agree more. Do keep writingRecommend

  • Ibad Tariq

    Fabulous article Noman… i agree with you 100%…
    my only criticism of Misbah is that he didnt groom talented young players. (haris sohail)..
    and only one flaw in this article … Umer Amin is not a proficient domestic player, he has an okay record, he was the top scorer in presidents trophy last year yes, but that was mainly due to 290 odd, other wise he scored all those runs at a very ordinary average… he was picked over haris sohail and fawad alam.. out two top performing left handers in the domestic circuit…Recommend

  • Zara

    Was it in favor of Misbah or again Yousuf? I am seriously confused.Recommend

  • someone

    Opinion from across the Border ( not from Afghanistan, China or Iran btw)
    I was surprised to see Misbah being dropped for T20 matches. How come one dropped the only batsman who was doing better than the rest of the team? On the second thought, I think it would have been Misbah himself asked for being dropped as to see what wonders can the team do without him. I think he knew all along that this batting line up does not hold a chance without him anchoring the inning. This must also be sufficient enough for the former “expert” cricketers of past like Sarfaraz, Shoaib, Yusuf, Sikander etc. to keep their blabbering mouth shut since they have been so vocal about Misbah. No one seems to have a short term plan for the team. Sohail has one , but thats for the long term including the investment in club/local cricket but most of these experts talk about team management etc. to gain some position in PCB. How come no one came forward to offer the service as a batting coach for the struggling team? Sohail does not talk about it. Rameez seems to be busy with ESPN and other channels. Not sure if PCB going to ask Inzamam or Saeed Anwar due to their inclination towards religion more than cricket now but if they can help then why not. Also i don’t think Pakistani batsman should be worrying about enough practice. They have good bowlers with them to give them enough practice for spin as well as Fast bowling. I think the new guys need some time and Pakistani fans should give them space and Media should keep a bit calm. I think GEO TV did a good work by giving a chance to Nazam Sethi and Misbah to present their side of story to public.Recommend

  • Faruq Faizi

    Hazrat, before calling out to someone you should increase your own knowledge. There is a difference between squad selection and team selection…the selection committee selects a squad for a series…the captain selects the playing 11, team.Recommend

  • 007

    The ball-chewing-pitch-digging bowling all rounder was made captain of national side, but having EQ he quit after just one test that too in the middle of the England series.Recommend

  • Umair

    dude he doesnt even select the best 11 given by selectors? n if selectors are not listening to him than he should clearly comeup on media n speak the truth or resign from captaincy since his advice is ignored !! instead he endorsed in the interview that this is the best 11 n these hv performed in the past !!! And the fact is except Sohaib Maqsood who avg 51 in List A n was kept on sidelines we hvnt given any new batsman a decent run in ODIs since 2010 despite severe batting problems? Should i blame only selectors? if the captain can not read the game n players than I wonder wat will happenRecommend

  • Umair

    prove of this fact is that Soh Maqsood got chance in 3rd ODI he should hv been in playing 11 from 1st match…I m pretty sure had Hafeez dint try Maqsood against zimb!! Maqsood wouldnt hv gotten chance under Misbah’s leadershipRecommend

  • Shamy

    What about the 10 reasons Misbah should be blamed ?Recommend

  • roughcheck

    Thanks God after a long long time. I have read some thing very sensible and coming right from the core of the heart.Recommend

  • Sam

    There is a very valid reason why you are a freelancer writer. I suggest you find something else where you can be better than waste of your time. (This so called article)Recommend