Misbah-ul-Haq is a limited batsman.
This isn’t a criticism (and you’ll find plenty of critics today), just fact. He has a limited range of orthodox scoring shots, he lacks the hitting power of a Shahid Afridi (although he’s not as weak as Younus Khan), and worst of all, he lacks the dexterity of a Javed Miandad in rotating the strike early in his innings.
But where he stands out – and this is crucial in a team that is traditionally poor in this area – is his mental strength, his calmness, his ability to keep fighting till the end, and through that strength, the flickers of hope he gives to his teammates (and the viewers) as long as he is at the crease.
Today’s semi-final against India was lost in a number of small battles. The dropped catches, the poor ground fielding that conceded an extra 15 runs, the poor shot selection, lack of close fielders for new batsmen, not taking the PowerPlay earlier when Umar Akmal was in full (albeit very brief) flow, Umar Gul’s bowling.
But what you can’t fault is players keeping the fight going, and in that respect Misbah-ul-Haq (dropped catch, slow start et al) is blameless. When more talented batsmen, more experienced batsmen, were losing their heads and getting themselves out, he kept his nerves and some hope alive. When attacking batsmen got out to defensive prods and defensive batsmen got out to mistimed wild swings, he held down one end, playing to his strengths and refusing to bow to the pressure.
You might choose to remember Misbah as the man who lost the 2007 Twenty20 Final. That would be criminally harsh on a player who, again, in 2007 as he did today in Mohali, kept Pakistan in the hunt till the very end. Yes, today the match was lost with 5-6 overs still left to play, but if every batsman in the team did the things Misbah does – i.e. play to his strengths, minimise his weaknesses, keep a cool head and protect his wicket at all costs – hell, if only one other of the top 8 batsmen had done the same thing, Pakistan would have come a lot closer.
Misbah the batsman is probably not good enough to be in the current Pakistan side even with their lack of batting resources. But Misbah the player, Misbah the man is a cut above the rest. He keeps fighting when others give up. He keeps his head when others lose theirs. Misbah is this team’s warrior of light, and it’s a pity the other old heads could not show the same restraint and application needed at such a crucial stage.
All things considered, Pakistan did quite well in the 2011 World Cup. We always expect our team to win going into any game, and there’s plenty of disappointment in how things turned out today, but the players deserve a warm welcome home. It’s time we stopped hating on our weaknesses, and started respecting our strengths. It’s time to stay calm and keep the fight to improve going every day.
It’s time for us to learn from Misbah-ul-Haq.