Afridi the hero and Misbah the villain

Published: April 18, 2014
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To put it simply, it’s not just their luck; it’s the trust in their abilities and the fearlessness in their approaches that sets them apart.

Pakistan needed six runs of four balls. The previous ball had scored a perfectly-timed six. A rather slim and unperturbed Misbahul Haq was the last man standing on the pitch.

Jogendar Sharma was one of those spin-bowling all-rounders from India who would disappear just like many of his kind. Misbah had played the cheeky flick so well throughout the tournament that he decided to bank on it again.

In my opinion, he batted it well enough; the ball remained airborne for some torturous seconds and then we saw Shanthakumaran Sreesanth running around in glee while Misbah sat down in agony and distress.

Needless to say Pakistan lost the 2007 T20 World Cup.

Misbahul Haq playing a shot during the 2007 T20 World Cup super over. Photo: Reuters

And what did we do?

We forgot Shahid Afridi’s duck to a mindless shot but rued Misbah’s shot selection.

Seven years later, in the Asia Cup 2014, Afridi was the one under the spotlight. The equation read three runs of three balls and Afridi had hit a six on the previous ball. He bludgeoned the next delivery outright and the first thought most viewers had was that it was a mishit.

A friend sitting right next to me abused and cried, the optimism of Rameez Raja and the nation’s infinite prayers propelled it on and we saw agony on Ravichandran Ashwin’s face. Of course, this was followed by Afridi’s famous ‘star pose’. Thanks to the shorter boundaries, otherwise Afridi’s hoick would have seemed as abysmal as it looked some seven years back.

Shahid Afridi, after unleashing two stunning strikes that went for sixes, as Pakistan defeated archrivals India in the Asia Cup tournament. Photo: Reuters

“Change kar yar, Misbah aa gaya hai.”

(Change the channel, Misbah has arrived.)

“Oye! Afridi aa gaya? Ooncha kar!”

(Has Afridi arrived? Increase the volume!)

These are two of the most clichéd statements made by a Pakistani viewer while watching a cricket match.

There are two questions that come to my mind. Firstly, why has Misbah become the villain? And secondly, do these two players just differ in luck?

To answer these questions, let us look deeper into the nature of the two players.

Humans are at their most beautiful when they remain the way they are – natural and pure. However, this is easier said than done. In the windmill of events that occur, one is bound to be affected. Sometimes hardships stop you short while achievements and accolades lift your head high. You either revisit your approach and change the way you have been doing things or you continue doing them the way you have. Although you will be called a fool if you do the latter by most, you may still be considered ‘natural’ and ‘original’ by some.

Afridi has been doing so for 17 years, thanks to those who kept giving him the opportunities. No matter how mindless they may have looked or how costly some moments may have seemed at the time, we have witnessed some pure, naked entertainment at his hands.

On the other hand, Misbah has become a victim to the events that continue to torment our batting line-up. Off the field controversies have brought Pakistani cricket to an unimaginable low. Consistent top-order collapses and lack of depth in batting has forced him to play in a very unlike-Misbah manner. Somehow, he has created that ‘safety-first’ mind set, according to which you can only be safe if you block everything on a good length and hit the ones that require you to do so.

Misbahul Haq, when he scored his 37th half-century in the Asia Cup tournament. Photo: AFP

The term ‘rotating the strike’ has gone out of his book. He has never been able to convert the 38 of his One Day International (ODI) 50s to hundreds or fire in crunch moments.

Nevertheless, Misbah has been one of the most successful captains in Pakistan’s cricketing history. Even Afridi’s current performance can be credited to the calmness and resolve created in the dressing room by the captain. At 39, Misbah has done enough on the field and with his bat to deserve to be on the team.

However, if he wants to step up in the league of the top captains in the world, he has to show more courage and heart in his batting and captaincy.

Shahid Afridi playing a shot. Photo: AFP

To put it simply, it’s not just their luck. It’s the level of trust in their abilities and the fearlessness in their approaches that sets them apart. Afridi comes in and does it his way. And when he does, Facebook becomes ‘Lala-book’ and the nation unites with their hearts beating ‘boom boom’.

Our nation likes to let off steam through Afridi’s murderous treatment of the cricket ball. However, it’s Misbah’s resolve and consistent performance that keeps the dressing room calm and allows the players to express their skills on the field.

Misbah isn’t a villain; he is an unsung hero whose achievements have been forgotten. Only his mistake has prevailed which has remained in the hearts of cricket fans.

Unfortunately, Misbah grinds for hours again and again only to provide a launchpad for Afridi and others like him.

Let’s change that today. Let’s make a resolve. Let’s back him in the tournaments to come for he has served the nation silently and selflessly.

Mohammad Sohaib

Mohammad Sohaib

Currently an undergraduate student of mass communication at NUST, he's got enough spare time to terrorise local newspaper outlets with his biting commentary and unique opinions. He tweets as @msohaib3088 (twitter.com/msohaib3088)

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