Once Misbah-ul-Haq is done and dusted at the end of the Test series against West Indies, he will be close to 43, and will look back fondly on a career where he has achieved more than the average top-notch batsman or bowler. That’s because Misbah’s greatest contribution to cricket – in Pakistan and the world – has been to lift the team out of the low of the 2010 spot-fixing scandal and be the ambassador the country’s cricket team needed so desperately.
Misbah, whose farewell series will start with the first Test at Sabina Park on Friday (April 21), completed Pakistan’s climb to the top of the ICC Test rankings with a hard-fought draw in England in 2016, but it had hardly been a straightforward journey for him.
Best: 161 not out
Born in Mianwali in Punjab, he was advised by his father, a disgruntled ex-hockey star, to put aside thoughts of being a sportsman and pursue his studies. His father’s sudden death pushed Misbah to a job in a textiles company, but he never showed up for work.
“It was a tough decision. I had to fight with circumstances and finally made my mark in the cricket grounds,” said Misbah to AFP before leaving for the Caribbean.
One of few surviving cricketers who started their first-class careers in the 1990s, Misbah played his first Test in 2001, against New Zealand in Auckland, but was dropped after just five Tests before making a comeback in 2007 and going on to play 72 Tests before the start of the series against West Indies.
In 2007, he was a surprise pick in the Pakistan side for the inaugural World Twenty20, and almost pulled off a victory for his team in the final against India before getting out to a scoop shot that ended Pakistan’s chase five runs short, which he marked as his biggest regret.
“It was very disappointing to lose that final,” he said. “I brought Pakistan back from a losing position but couldn’t cross the finish line and that’s the most disappointing moment of my career.”
Misbah recovered with two centuries – 161 not out and 133 not out – when Pakistan toured India for a three-Test series in 2007, which the home side won 1-0, but his career went down again following a poor showing on the Australia tour in 2010. “They were desperate times,” he said. “You are in the eleven and suddenly you are out, it prompts you to burn all your cricket equipment in anger.”
Then came the spot-fixing scandal in England, and Misbah, at 36, was made captain of the Test team. And he hasn’t looked back. He has led Pakistan to nine undefeated series at ‘home’ in the UAE, was given the International Cricket Council’s Spirit of Cricket award in 2016, and has a win-loss ratio of 24-14 from 53 games in charge, also a Pakistan record.
A maiden Test series win over West Indies, if it happens, will mark the end of his run, along with that of Younis Khan, and Misbah felt his contribution would be viewed favourably. “My legacy will be in my numbers and the respect earned by the team,” he said.