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He has done it. He did against the hopes of the shrewdest of people and against all odds as always, going against the tides and achieving success in his own way. It was humiliation then, its commemoration now, it was shambles then, it’s embodiment of unity now, it was a crime then, it is an honor now, it was the lowest ebb then, its highest degree now. He did it! Misbah did it! He was brought back to revive the shattered team, to reignite their passion for winning amid doubts; will a 36 year old be able to do it? As Misbah in his pleasant smile might have said, “OK let’s try this too”, after all this was probably his last chance, it was the one final call, and he responded.
All it took him were 6 years to pounce on the lost glory which seemed to be very far, too vague with a dispiriting and arduous journey. He started slowly, trying to shrug off that humility of his predecessors went along his way in his own style, leaping and crossing every opponent, competing robustly with the best of the times, started from No. 8 and ended in top two. He showed results rather quickly than expected, winning games after games and winning them fittingly, slowly settling the team, making every one assured of their spots, clearing the role and assigning it to right man. Even in his climb to redemption, he did not try to gain anybody’s sympathy, he never made his captaincy sound like a favor, he always remain steadfast, he chose the cricket ground to answer the critics rather than chanting his achievements on television which wasn’t something other captains had done in the past.
Let’s look at the odds against which he went. Home isolation, a young pack to lead and sparse support in the makeshift home that circumstances compelled you to play in as no one wanted to visit Pakistan. You have nothing going in your favor yet you shock the world with your swift recovery. In 6 years, you beat almost every top team, drew the match against the most dominating teams of the era, made his team earn the respect and above all, made it a force to reckon with! This is how he turned the makeshift home into an insurmountable fortress.
What Misbah did different than his predecessors? He tried to be a father figure rather than a must-to-be-respected senior bloke, he earned respect and never over used his stature of captain, he had a clarity in whom he wanted, what he wanted and who could deliver what to him. He had long term plans and never changed them after one or two jerks. He plans every possibility, works out every opposition member and chalks out all the loops he can cash to win. He brought stability and a sense of patience. He’d rather sit back to let things happen than try to make them happen and messing up in the end. What he would do is he would just put his plan into action and then wait. Misbah succeeded. Keeping it simple was the key and he went on like this every time no matter what he achieved and how big it was and no matter the attention it was getting, for him a win is a win.
In the time when you are churning out positive results, when you are getting all the praises and when you’re already the best in your country’s history, then it’s very difficult to just mind your business and let everyone speak what they want. But Misbah did that too. He never replied to his critics in the same coin; neither did he say anything fulminating press talks and bashing his critics. He did once or twice let anger get the best of him but other than that a perfect embodiment of “cool as a cucumber”, always smiling no matter how bad a day it is, speaking with so much sense that at times you doubt whether he really is Pakistan’s captain.
It’s true, he’s been a warrior, the perfect man who has led the Pakistani cricket team out of the sand when needed, he was supported by his team not because of his age but his merit. He earned every bit of it, through his solid stances, through his thoughtfulness, through his sensibility and wisdom; he deserved every letter of praise he is receiving today. His achievements in one format are often over shadowed by a relatively bad record in another format. Misbah had almost no fans at the time he decided to lead the team. He started on his way, made new fans, including me who didn’t even know that there is a Misbah in our domestic circuits. He had haters but gradually turned them into his supporters. Those who haven’t realized the magnitude of his achievements are just living in faze or they don’t want to realize it.
But believe me, when he walked out of the Oval cricket ground with his head high up and a pleasant little smile even after a magnanimous victory, I said to myself; ‘man you deserve it all, you really do!’. He is 42, he’s not gonna hang around for much and I know that, but every time a series ends, I watch the post series presentations with my fingers crossed hoping, “no please don’t call it a day, please don’t”.
I just want him to continue. His presence is all what made me love my team and my players again, he inspired a lot of people including me and one thing I learned from him is that we should be brave, results will follow.” It was all about his bravery that the same crowd that was lampooning us as fixers 6 years ago gave a standing ovation as we left the ground after drawing the series against their nation and the redemption was complete. Misbah has already gotten his name written in the history, and in cricketing history of our nation, he is guaranteed a big chapter.