Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Is Misbah the sole responsible?

By Muhammad Asif Khan

After the historic test whitewash against England, the Pakistan Cricket team and the skipper Misbah-ul-Haq were the centre of attention, and were being praised from every quarter. However, the sorry tale afterwards dented the status of the skipper big-time and his “sluggish” batting was targeted and as a result he was seen as the lone responsible of the defeats in the ODI and T20 series against England. The intensity of criticism on him prompted me to scrutinise his record as the skipper in the limited-over matches he lost.

Misbah took the baton from Shahid Afridi in May 2011 and ever since lost five ODIs and two T20s International matches.

Starting from the ODIs the first match he lost as skipper was against Sri Lanka in November last year. In that match Misbah got to the wicket in the 4th over after the top three batsmen got out cheaply at only 11 runs while chasing 235 runs. At that point he obviously went into the shell and tried to steady the ship. Later on Umer Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Sarfaraz Ahmed got the starts but could not have finished and Pakistan lost.

The second ODI that Pakistan lost under Misbah was against England in the recently concluded series in the U.A.E. Pakistan was again chasing and Misbah was at the wicket in the 9th over as the top four went back to the hut for 40 runs only.

In the following ODI against the same opposition, Pakistan had to overhaul 250 runs for victory. This time the top order performed reasonably well and later on Misbah also had partnerships with Azhar Ali, Shahid Afridi and Umer Akmal. Again the likes of Afridi and Akmal got the starts but perished before the job was done. Misbah also lost his wicket while trying for big stokes – which is not his forte – and later Pakistan lost the game.

In the third ODI of the series Pakistan got the chance to bat first and apart from Afridi, Umer Akmal and somewhat Muhammad Hafeez no other batsmen including Misbah came up with a significant contribution hence the green-shirts accumulated a modest total of 222. While defending, our top bowlers - Umer Gul, Afridi and Aizaz Cheema - were hammered for over 6 runs each.

In the fourth and final ODI of the Pak-England series, Pakistan again batted first and the top order including Misbah-ul-Haq (46 off 52) played a good hand, but the later half of the batting line-up failed to accumulate a sizeable total. Pakistan scored 237 on the placid track where frontline bowlers – Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi - were hit for plenty and we lost.

Now turning the shortest format where under the 37-year old Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan lost two games – both at the hands of England on the recent tour. In the first match, Pakistan were in pursuit of 151 runs, but the campaign was badly hit by the departure of 5 batsmen for just 50 runs. Again the same old story of consolidation and a catch-22 situation for the skipper - who is not known for hard-hitting abilities – resulted in a defeat. On the other hand, hitters like Afridi and Hammad Azam got out against after reasonable starts.

In the last T20 Pakistan had to chase down just 130 runs. In pursuit, after loosing Hafeez cheaply the young guns – Asad Shafiq and Awaiz Zia - played well. Misbah came to the crease in the 8th over and shaped up four partnerships however failed to finish the match. Again a few batsmen got the starts but got out on important junctures.

If you are still reading this piece then you must have tagged me as a Misbah supporter by now, but I beg to differ because this was not my agenda at all. I will not be judgmental however just want to express my viewpoint in one sentence that Cricket is a team game therefore, in most cases, one man could not be held responsible for a defeat or a victory. However, if Misbah-ul-Haq was praised for his prior victories then he should bear the honest criticism on the defeats as well.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your attempt to form a measured approach to analysing Misbah's performance (who has been a real stalwart of Pakistan cricket of late, and I'm a big fan), but this article misses some important contextualisation. Misbah took the helm when the team was developing winning ways, and their ODI performance has stalled and become retrograde under him. Afridi took the helm of a disintegrating side who nobody thought could win anything, and led them through adversity to many incredible victories. Afridi won tours away against New Zealand and led a brilliant world cup campaign, beating Australia, Sri Lanka, & West Indies emphatically. Misbah barely edged past Ireland & Zimbabwe when he took over as ODI captain. There needs to be a happy medium: Afridi performs better without the burden of captaincy, and Misbah is not a long-term answer, whatever his merits. At least in the shorter formats, there needs to be a new captain who can eventually lead the test side.