Misbahul Haq, the man who broke cricket beyond repair

Published: April 10, 2017
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Misbah-ul-Haq poses with the ICC Champions Trophy, ICC Champions Trophy 2017, Karachi, March 30, 2017. PHOTO: PCB.

As ungentlemanly as it is to castigate someone in the aftermath of a retirement, such is the rage I harbour for the man named Misbahul Haq that I’ll break this sporting code.

Before I tear into my vitriolic rant, I’ll start by saying that I have nothing against Misbah ‘the person’. In fact, as a captain, he did a stellar job staying clear of any controversies a la the Salman Butts and Wasim Akrams of these shores. I’ll give him that. Statistically speaking too, Misbah, I’ve come to know, was better than some of our better ones. He also deserves some marks for taking the armband in 2010 — a time when it was more a poisoned chalice than an honour.

But my beef with Misbah isn’t about numbers. It isn’t even about how he calmed a sinking ship and cleaned up our rotten image… until it became rottener.

A dejected Misbah-ul-Haq leaves the field after holing out, Australia v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Sydney, 3rd day, January 5, 2017.
Photo: AFP

Trust me, I’m not even holding against him the fact that we lost the World T20 final against India. After all, per Misbah fanboy logic, that doesn’t even count since it was him who had single-handedly brought us to that place. The point is that he may have a winning ratio beyond 100%, he may have played a cleaner better than even Harvey Keitel himself, but Misbah will always remain the man who took the joy of cricket from me.

Misbah-ul-Haq chases the ball, Australia v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2017.
Photo: Getty images

Under this particular Mianwali-born, Pakistan’s natural attacking nous, aggression, raw power — all ethos of our cricketing culture — died a slow, poisonous death. Instead of being a proactive, in-your-face side as we always were, Misbah’s Pakistan cricket team became a timid creature, happy to simply react and dance to others’ tunes rather than set the tone itself. The deeper we went into the Misbah era, the good old days of taking the game to the opposition became more and more a distant memory.

On a good day, Misbah and his men would batter lowly opposition to beef up their ‘winning percentage’. A bad day would see him fold his arms up and run his hand through his beard as if some masterly plan was in the making. The session would end, the day would end, the match would end, but the conjuring of the grand plan wouldn’t. And instead of offsetting his contagious defensive mind-set with more vibrant personalities, the Tuk Tuk maestro stockpiled on cricketers cut from the same cloth as himself.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq lofts one down the ground, Pakistan v West Indies, 2nd Test, Abu Dhabi, 1st day, October 21, 2016.
Photo: AFP

So while the world went Abraham Benjamin de Villiers, we went Azhar Ali. The world churned out Virat Kohlis and we’d emit a measly Asad Shafiq (the ODI one). This was the Misbah effect.

Before Misbah trudged up the field with his sleepy face and Mianwali drawl, the country had an embarrassment of riches in the aggression department. The pool was so rich with attack-first talent that our selectors regularly binned world-class players just because they could afford to.

Misbah-ul-Haq celebrates a hundred on his first appearance at Lord’s, England v Pakistan, 1st Investec Test, Lord’s, 1st day, July 14, 2016.
Photo: Getty Images

There was always someone waiting in the wings who could smack till his bat broke or bowl till his back broke. Not in the Misbah era though. The man has sucked every drop of excitement out of the game. And for that, as far as I am concerned, he will always remain the man who broke cricket beyond repair.

Zohaib Majeed

Zohaib Majeed

The author works for an English leading daily. He hates cricket, loves combat sports and is indifferent to politics. He tweets @zohaib86

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

  • Maqsood Zafar Malik

    Do you even Cricket?Recommend

  • Farhan

    A guy who hates cricket writing about cricket.Recommend

  • Anonymouse

    “Sleepy face and Mianwali drawl”…I thought this blog was not supposed to be personal, last I checked, a person’s facial expressions and accent weren’t representative of their performance in a sport.Recommend

  • Altamash Ahmed Siddiqui

    if you hate cricket then you dont know how the game is playedRecommend

  • Talha

    Probably the most useless article I read today. Recommend

  • Faraz

    It’s not the man . Its the times that he played in. If you or for that matter anybody else thinks that the guy picked players because they were stolid and boring, you are completely off target. It has been several years since Misbah quit limited overs cricket. We don’t see Pakistan lighting up the cricket world with limited over heroics do we ?!?
    The man marshalled the limited and poor quality of resources available to him in the best way possible.
    The great Pakistani teams of the 90’s are a thing of the past. They are sorely missed but that era is over.
    The world has moved on . Skills have been honed to a point where Pakistan’s best eleven today is pedestrian in comparison.
    If I were Misbah, I would be within my rights to say, ” Apre Moi, Le Deluge”
    It is time to give the man his due and place him up there in the pantheon of the greats of the game .. dare I say even above the great Khan himself.
    The numbers, they may take the path less travelled, but they rarely lie.Recommend

  • M. S. Chaudhry

    Blog is little harsh and unjust. It also proves how ungrateful and forgetful people are we. When an earthquake hits or tsunami wipes out everything on its way, what humans do first is rescue and recovery. They don’t start building skyscrapers on debris without clearing it. Comparing our situation with other teams is so unjust because none of them has faced as we did.Recommend

  • Imran

    Really poorly written article with insanely inept comments. While Misbah did bring a defensive mindset and affected the careers of good players like Fawad Alam, he did contribute a lot, Under him Pk beat England, Australia and SL. Not a mean achievement.Recommend

  • MJ

    The author probably likes players like Afridi who close their eyes and swing the bat. Misbah is a classical test batsman. He played as per the occasion and was only playing with a dead bat because those who batted before him had miserably failed, and those who were to come down the order were hopeless as well. Our so called “talented” stroke makers…. Shehzad and Umar Akmal have a talent that has yet to be realized. Given the quality of our available batsmen and their performances in the past, Misbah could’ve not played any different. When needed he was able to play at a fast pace, something that he exhibited when he scored the then fastest test century just a few years ago.Recommend

  • Daud

    if you hate cricket then why do you bother to write about it ?Recommend

  • Mustafa Mirza

    What ‘attacking nous’ did our team have from 2000-2010???? What did we do other than losing? Do you even remember the 2003 and 2007 world cups? Misbah taught our team how to win again. Your criticism of azhar ali for not playing like ab divilliers is laughable. You know as much about cricket as i do about rocket science. What a joke.Recommend

  • Faheem

    sarcasm really? during his time we manage to chase highest total.If bringing method to madness is boring then misbah is guilty as hell.
    Poor Blog.Recommend

  • Syed Muhammad Bilal

    Wasted 10mins of my life reading this
    Recommend

  • Karsaz

    I completely disagree! do you forgot the day he scored joint fastest Hundred?Recommend

  • Hasan

    Oh I wasn’t aware the author was a cricket expert. Seriously the problem with Pakistanis is that every Tom Dick and Harry thinks they know cricket better than the people who are in the ground. Why would ET put such Garbage on anyway.

    Seriously Misbah is the best thing that could have happened to Pakistan cricket. Pakistani audience love flamboyancy, but take a look at the LONG career of Shahid Afridi and the comparatively short one of Misbah.

    We got more memorable matches under Misbah than under any captain in history of Pakistan cricket. Pakistan is finally churning out Batsmen that can atleast stay on the pitch for some time.Recommend

  • AB

    One of the worst, absolute worst, crcket articles ever written. I am embarrassed for the author.Recommend

  • Haseeb

    A person who hates cricket, find time to criticize Misbah! What an irony!Recommend

  • Ali Mirza

    I am surprised someone with no knowledge of cricket has the audacity to comment on a stalwart revered everywhere else in the world.

    To summarize, the Azhars, the Asad Alis is not a problem created by Misbah. He was asked to manage them and he did the best he could considering the talent he had at his disposal.

    Does Tribune even have standards for its writers?Recommend

  • Kashif Ahmed

    Certainly you hate cricket .Recommend

  • Zaid

    To be fair Inzamams team produced solid results between late 2003-2006. And we arguably had a better ODI team then compared to Misbahs era. Definitely a better batting unit that could chase down big scores. Misbahs ODI team perpetually struggled with that.
    On the flip side, Misbah was a great bowling captain and we routinely defended middling scores during his captaincy. Recommend

  • Atif

    Prime example of sitting on the fence and commenting on whatevers going on in the field!
    Not poor writing, rather, poor insight!Recommend

  • Laraib Imtiaz

    People can get carried away but how can organizations (media) make bad judgement like this. The article doesnt talk bad sense, it doesnt talk sense at all. So poor is the cricketing knowledge of the author that it is just a complete waste of readers’ time.Recommend

  • http://sportpulse.net/ Abdul Moiz

    haha!Recommend

  • abhi

    I think Afridi was the best ;) he has single handedly lost many matches for Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hunain Kayani

    A journalist who hates cricket criticizes that player who under the toughest period of PCT history lead his side to become the best test team. All I can do is that express my disappointment with the current standard of sports journalism. :(Recommend

  • Majid ALi

    This is one point of view … no need to be harsh with author you guys are also not expert when criticizing him … everyone knows Pakistani cricket is dying Pakistani cricket is not playing the modern cricket there is not a single winner player in the team …. we are still playing 1990s cricket …..you accept this or not but this is truth…you can not win from Australia…India…England …..South Africa…..who to blame … Capitan ..coach …selector or management ….??? As far as I know our political management is responsible of Pakistan cricket fall…..Recommend

  • farhan

    i think that maybe the writer was seeking attention..and he succeededRecommend

  • Anas Rauf

    Even our worst enemies do praise Misbah for his mastery, technique, skill and the work he did for Pakistan Cricket. But this author has sunk to lowest of depths to try to dishonor Misbah who made Pakistan #1 test cricket team which feat many couldn’t accomplish in their long careers as captain of stronger teams than us.Recommend

  • Fayez Qamar

    My affection for Misbah on one side.

    I have never read a more farcical, risible, pointless piece of literature in my life.

    I am sure you are a merited writer and hence you have been given the honor of being published. Yet I am sorry to say this, sir, that your (although thesaurus-infested) article has no merit and spews your lackofunderstandingofcricket.

    But I do not blame you. You are a product of the “Boom Boom” mentality which is courtesy Mr. Afridi.

    I sincerely hope that you produce better articles in other fields. Although with no knowledge of (most) sports and indifference to politics, I suppose you are left with only tabloid articles to write on Sunny Leone’s dressing at the Red Carpet.

    All the best to you sir.Recommend

  • Mustafa Mirza

    Exactly, he was always coming in at 10-3, how else could he have played? If he played aggressively and got out he would have been the same as all the others in the batting lineup (Shehzad, Akmal, Maqsood, etc. etc. etc.)Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    Ahmad Shehzad and Umer AKmal used to blast and play aggressively. Misbah never asked the fast playing batsmen to play slow.On many occasions Misbah played fearlessly.The coaches can be questioned ,not the captain for slow batting by players.Recommend

  • Fareeha Khan

    I am left bewildered, as to why Express Tribune would let such a blog bid farewell to an amazing a person/skipper/sportsman as Misbah. I have several answers to the points raised by the writer but since he proclaims himself to dislike cricket, I wouldn’t want to waste my time and energy in this direction. I would however like to take this opportunity to request the editors of Tribune blogs and the members involved in the selection process to play a slight more responsible role. I understand that bringing readers to view the website might require putting unpopular opinions on the page, but I would appreciate if such opinions came with, at least, some insightful explanation. Nevertheless, with the amount of comments on the article, I believe, your blog has gathered a fair amount of attention, accomplishing what it was intended to. Advice for next time: Please let well-researched articles grace your page and respect journalism the way it is supposed to be.Recommend

  • Saeed

    What on earth was this? Super bad judgement.Recommend

  • anon

    Absolutely useless article. You castigate him for the very thing that kept Pak cricket afloat. You wanted him to be aggressive when morale was low? When pak cricket was on the brink? If it wasn’t for him, 2010 would have been the beginning of the end. Recommend