When the inaugural T20 World Cup started, everyone had their doubts. A T20 World Cup? What impact will this have on Tests and ODIs? Would this even be something worth watching? As it turned out, the 2007 T20 World Cup has been easily the best and a lot good came out of it. We saw Zimbabwe take down Australia at a time when they were easily the most dominant Test and ODI side in the world. Yuvraj Singh set Durban alight when he smashed Stuart Broad for six sixes in one over. Most importantly, it marked the return of a certain forgotten Misbah-ul-Haq, who last played for Pakistan four years previous, and was rewarded for a great domestic season and his stint playing club cricket in England.
Pakistan made it to the final of the tournament, mostly because of Misbah’s amazing batting. It took one false shot off Joginder Sharma to stop him, and India won the World Cup. He remained a hero in the eyes of the Pakistani fans and made it to the Test and ODI side that took on South Africa and India later that year. Since his return to the test side, Misbah has played fifty Tests and has scored 3766 runs at an impressive average of 53.80. He has also played 150 ODIs after his return and has notched up 4817 runs at 44.19.
There was no looking back for Misbah after that tournament. He scored heavily in Tests, especially in the series against India that followed the T20 World Cup. He was Pakistan’s highest scorer with 464 runs in three matches at 116.00, with two centuries and one fifty. He struggled a little in the Sri Lanka series that followed and did not manage to score any hundreds. But he managed to rediscover his form against New Zealand and West Indies and has continued scoring heavily since then.
2011 was probably his best year since his return. Pakistan had just lost two great fast bowlers in the spot fixing saga and he took over the captaincy. This was the year Pakistan hammered England, the number one Test side at that time, 3-0. It was then when Misbah established himself as one of the best cricket captains around the world, by somehow bringing out the best of Pakistan’s Test cricketers.
In these eight years so far, Misbah-ul-Haq had his ups and downs, and faced a lot of criticism for being a “defensive“ and “selfish” batsman and skipper. He had to spend most of his batting in ODIs trying to hold the innings together while the batting collapsed around him. With a team full of inconsistent batsmen such as Nasir Jamshed and Umar Akmal, Misbah had no choice but to bat out the innings carefully to ensure the team at least lasted the full fifty overs. And to be fair, he was very unlucky to not get any ODI centuries.
Throughout his career Misbah hardly ever hit back at the words of journalists and former cricketers. He let his bat do the talking and even then it didn’t seem enough as he kept receiving all the blame for Pakistan’s performances, some of which were often appalling. And yet, Pakistan got thrashed by Bangladesh in the first ODI series they played without him.
When Misbah announced that he was retiring from ODIs by the end of the 2015 ODI World Cup, the news was received with mixed reactions. Some people were relieved, oblivious to how important his role in the ODI squad. He proved this once again during Pakistan’s first match in the World Cup vs India. Chasing a good score of 300 at Adelaide, the whole team collapsed while Misbah kept trying to get there on his own with tiny contributions from Ahmed Shahzad and Haris Sohail.
But for me, and perhaps every other non-Australian cricket fan, Misbah’s greatest feat so far was when he equalled Sir Vivian Richards’ record for the fastest Test century against Australia in the second test at Abu Dhabi. The Australians had recently thrashed England 5-0, and beat South Africa, the number one ranked test side in the world 2-1. He scored 101 from 57 in that innings, and set Australia a near-impossible target of 603. The bowling attack consisting of Johnson, Starc, Siddle and Lyon was left clueless. So much for being a “tuk-tuk” batsman.