Misbah-ul-Haq: The dutiful soldier who pulled Pakistan cricket out of darkness

Mention the English summer of 2010 to Pakistani cricket followers and you may see many of them break into a cold sweat. Three high-profile cricketers, Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif were caught spot-fixing and subsequently banned. As a result of their actions, Pakistan cricket was being vilified from all quarters and some former players were even suggesting that the Pakistan cricket team should be banned from international cricket altogether. It was a time of embarrassment, a time of reflection and a time to make the right decisions for those in the corridors of power in the Pakistan Cricket Board. With scathing criticism from all quarters, the PCB needed to make crucial decisions that ultimately could make or break Pakistan cricket.

 Misbah-ul-Haq: The dutiful soldier who pulled Pakistan cricket out of darkness

Misbah-ul-Haq will always be remembered as a gentleman and a great ambassador of Pakistan and Pakistan cricket. AFP

They made a decision, Misbah-ul-Haq was now the leader. When Misbah was appointed captain, there were a few raised eyebrows and some concerns, but generally there was a sense of relief that an educated, mature, battle-hardened and amicable cricketer had been trusted to take on one of the toughest jobs in sport. Misbah had the respect of the Pakistan cricketing fraternity having played in domestic circuit for many seasons. He was a familiar figure in Pakistani cricketing circles and a cricketer well-liked by the young brigade and his senior colleagues.

Misbah's achievements in cricket before being appointed as Pakistan captain were not earth-shattering to say the least. He had been in and out of the Pakistan side and had to compete with the likes of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan for a middle-order spot, which was a difficult and uphill task. When Misbah was chosen as captain, initially results were secondary, what Pakistan cricket needed was a steady head, someone calm and collective and an individual that would lead the team to stability. What was also required was someone who would win the hearts of the cricketing world and re-establish Pakistan cricket and its players as credible, not corrupt.

The job Misbah inherited was probably the toughest. Pakistan cricket was in the doldrums, it was at its lowest ebb and needed a lift, a push and someone to lead it from the darkness and into the light. Pakistani cricketers needed a leader, someone who could put an arm around their shoulder and guide them. Pakistan cricket needed someone who could be an elder brother, a father-figure and a role model to players who were under the scanner and in the limelight for all the wrong reasons.

Misbah's achievements on the field are well documented, taking a group of cricketers from rock-bottom to the top of the ICC Test rankings in August 2016. For a country that has not been able to play international cricket at home since 2009, that was an incredible achievement. Despite the fact that Pakistan was number one in the ICC Test rankings for a short while, the fact that they reached that pinnacle marked a journey that began with the appointment of Misbah.

To the harsh minority, Misbah was 'Tuk Tuk', the player who batted slowly and took his time at the crease. To the uninitiated he did not provide the entertainment, glitz and glamour they yearned. To the majority, he was the saviour of Pakistan cricket, the man who rebuilt a sinking ship and took it to the dizzy heights.

Misbah has never been one for the headlines. He never craved attention. He never felt the need to be in the headlines or make big statements that would later come back to haunt him. He was as calm and calculated off the pitch as on the pitch. He thought before he spoke, a skill that sometimes has been lacking in Pakistan cricket. He craved for his country and for Pakistan cricket to be given the respect it deserved. It was always about Pakistan cricket and not about himself, for Misbah. He took great pride in victory, but also respected the opposition even in the heat of battle.

A quiet, family man who his friends say is loyal, humble and patriotic, he was destined to lead Pakistan cricket to greater heights and instilled something that Pakistan cricket has rarely witnessed - stability. He was the rock that Pakistan cricket needed, the man that the PCB, players, officials, coaches could rely upon. Even the most vocal critics with their ramblings knew that this was a man who deserved respect.

Shaharyar Khan has stated that Misbah will be given a fitting farewell and that his skills will not be wasted in future. The PCB Chairman has hinted that The 42-year-old will be given a Director of Cricket role within the Board. That would be one of the best decisions the PCB could make and discussions should commence as soon as the Test series against the West Indies is over.

Misbah's announcement to retire from cricket comes as no surprise. Ageing limbs and the pressure of leading the Pakistan cricket team for nearly six and a half years can take its toll on anyone. He will leave on his own terms with his head held high. He will leave Pakistan cricket with nothing to prove.

Misbah will forever be remembered as the man who rescued and rebuilt Pakistan cricket, the man who was always when the team needed him the most, the man who quietly guided group of individuals and forged steel into the team, and lastly, a gentleman and a great ambassador of Pakistan and Pakistan cricket.

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Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 11:38:35 IST