Is Misbah-ul-Haq a convenient scapegoat of Pakistan cricket?

Author : WellPitched

CRICKET-ZIM-PAK

Yesterday there was an interesting blog post on the Express Tribune. It was titled: 6 reasons why Misbah Ul Haq should not be blamed.

The author of the article, Mr. Noman Ansari, provides us with 6 anti-Misbah notions (or assumptions as he calls them), which are publicly held by the vast majority of Pakistan fans and then dismisses them.

The 6 “assumptions” are:

Assumption 1: We have a team of lions
Assumption 2: the rest of the team tries to bat like Misbah
Assumption 3: Misbah should bat at number three and lead from the front
Assumption 4: Pakistan needs Inzamamul Haq as the batting coach
Assumption 5: Saeed Ajmal would be a better captain than Misbah
Assumption 6: Misbah only makes runs for himself, and not the team

Lets take a look at them one by one.

I will first provide with a gist of what Mr. Ansari wrote; then I will provide Imran Aslam’s point of view, and then my own opinion.

1. We have a team of lions

Mr. Ansari: …the Pakistani cricket team is certainly not packing lions. Our opening batsman is Mohammad Hafeez, who going by his scores is more of a duck than a lion. The other openers such as Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad are promising, but still far from consistent. Sohaib Maqsood could be our next big thing, but needs grooming and apparently has a history of fitness issues. Meanwhile, our last next big thing, Umar Akmal, although supremely talented, bats like he had been dropped as a baby by his nurse. This could have been the same hospital where Shahid Afridi was born… we are less a team of lions, and more like a misfit zoo with old animals.

Imran Aslam: his first argument here is about Hafeez being a duck and not a lion – completely agreed. However, is it my fault that Hafeez continues to bat in the top 3 despite having proven very successfully that he is not capable of this or might Misbah have something to do with deciding the batting order? Then he talks about Shahzad and Jamshed – how come these 2 bat with a completely different intent in T20s? and then Afridi, again is it my fault that our team combination was such that Afridi was batting at 7 when everyone and their dog knows that he should not be batting above 8.

Q: If Hafeez is a duck then should Misbah not be blamed for keeping a duck in the team? Remember that the selectors finally put their foot down when they dropped Hafeez from the test squad for the series against South Africa, despite resistance from Misbah. Misbah has been instrumental in developing the clout that Hafeez now enjoys within the management and board. I am actually a Hafeez supporter; I think that through his bowling he commands a position in the limited overs teams. However, given his batting, he should be batting down the order. But again isn’t Misbah to blame for maintaining Hafeez’ position in the top order?

Dropping Nasir from the ODIs in SA, giving him a dressing down during the Champions Trophy, and playing with his confidence are all Misbah’s fault. Ahmed Shehzad has been superb at the top of the order; please remember that Shehzad was kept away from the ODI side for the longest time by Misbah because he preferred the likes of Imran Farhat and did not want an Afridi supporter in the team.

How can you let Misbah get away with his treatment of Umar Akmal? He first kicked him out of the domestic team that they both play for. Then he got him dumped from the ODI team, despite Umar being the highest ranked ODI batsman Pakistan had. Umar Akmal has been the best ODI batsman for Pakistan in the past 3-4 years, yet because of Misbah we find him batting at 6 or 7 and burdened with the wicket keeping duties.

Unbelievable.

Shahid Afridi should be kept away from batting discussions. But if we are talking about lions, then the team doesn’t have a bigger one than Lala. What a player.

2. Rest of the team tries to bat like Misbah

Mr. Ansari: Recently, Mohammad Yousuf told a few jokes when criticising Misbah. The first was that our batsmen are following Misbah as a role-model, which is why they are unable to score runs and thus win matches. If anyone has seen Misbah at the crease, they know that he is patient, disciplined and tries to play a long innings. Clearly, this is the exact problem with Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez and rest of the batsmen. Obviously, they are trying too hard to emulate Misbah by occupying the crease. Why, just the other day I was screaming at Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal for playing patiently like Misbah, rather than trying to irresponsibly hit the ball out of the park.

Imran Aslam: First of all Shahid Afridi is NOT a batsman and should not be considered in any argument which involves the word batsman. Look at Jamshed pre and post being dropped by Misbah; is there any difference in the way he plays and might that have something to do with the captain? Yes U Akmal does not try to bat like Misbah but he gets rewarded by being played below Sohail Tanvir and Afridi in the batting order!!!

Q: Misbah is not a role model. He cannot inspire his batsmen. Javed Miandad, Inzamam Ul Haq, and even MoYo to an extent were all inspirational and brought out the best in younger batsmen. Misbah cannot do the same.

3. Misbah should bat at 3 and lead from the front

Mr. Ansari: This is another joke courtesy of Mohammad Yousuf, who says that our batsmen’s technique is poor is because Misbah doesn’t have the guts to come at the number three batting position. First of all, let’s think of all the times that Mohammad Yousuf as Pakistan captain came in at one down. Under his captaincy, Pakistan’s batting also struggled, and although the fans begged MoYo to come in at number three, he stuck to his favorite position in the middle order. So please, as great a batsman as you were Mr Yousuf, practice what you preach. Secondly, Misbah coming in at one down is only a stop gap solution and won’t improve any cricketer’s technique. Our batsmen have always had deep technical flaws that come from our terrible grassroots standards. How can one blame Misbah for that?

England v Pakistan: 3rd Test - Day Three

Imran Aslam: If MoYo did not take on the responsibility and bat at no. 3 Misbah should not either? Brilliant logic indeed!!! Oh and btw, MoYo just captained Pakistan in a grand total of 8 ODI’s with 4 of those instances coming in 2003-04 when he was deputizing for Inzi – so he effectively captained in 4 ODIs (against Australia) when the batting was struggling and he did not promote himself.

Q: This is typical of blaming the critic of not doing something instead of defending the person being criticized. So what if MoYo did not take the responsibility? The fact itself is untrue however. Mohammad Yousuf batted at number 3 in 45 innings in ODIs, compared to Misbah who has batted at that position only once!

4. Pakistan needs Inzamam Ul Haq as the batting coach

Mr. Ansari: I would say that Yousuf and Inzamam adversely affected Pakistan cricket by introducing a needless religious focus in the dressing room. Now, Yousuf is lobbying for Inzamam to become Pakistan’s new coach. While Inzamam was a great batsman, his technique wasn’t fabulous in testing conditions. One has to look at Inzamam’s World Cup record, where aside from 1992, he was a huge disappointment. Furthermore, Inzamam’s record in Australia and South Africa, where the conditions really test a batsmen’s technique, was quite ordinary. In Australia he averaged a mediocre 30, while in South Africa, he scored at an average of 31 runs per Test match innings.

Imran Aslam: Inzi has been one of the very best batsmen produced by Pakistan (if not the best) and if our batsmen need a good batting coach and a local one Inzi is probably the best option out there. Yes he did not average very high in Aus and SA but batting conditions in England are equally hard (maybe tougher due to the swing and seam) and I remember Inzi producing some gems out there. As for his WC record – I remember Inzi doing well in the 96 WC and reasonably well in the 99 WC as well (his 81 against Australia being a treat to watch).

Q: Mr. Ansari has completely confused me here. In trying to defend Misbah, he has suddenly shifted focus to criticizing the best batsman ever produced by Pakistan. His technique was not fabulous? You gotta be kidding me! Not a good record in World Cups? Ha! He played an instrumental role in guiding Pakistan towards World Cup glory in 1992. He averaged 48 in the 1996 World Cup, and he was our second highest run scorer, behind Saeed Anwar, in the 1999 world cup.

If there is anyone who should be coaching Pakistan’s batsmen it should be one of Hanif Mohammad, Javed Miandad, or Inzamam Ul Haq. But even they would not be able to change Misbah’s mindset.

5. Saeed Ajmal would be a better captain than Misbah

Mr. Ansari: both Yousuf and Akhtar are insisting that Ajmal would be a better captain than Misbah… the complaints Yousuf and Akhtar have about Misbah involve his batting. Well, newsflash, Ajmal can’t actually bat. On the field, Misbah is a decent captain. His field settings are on the mark and he attacks new batsmen by blocking singles and employing close in fielders. He is certainly a better captain than Yousuf ever was. If the complaints about Misbah’s captaincy are about his approach to batting, why replace him with a bowler and at what cost? Will Ajmal continue to bowl as well under the pressure of captaincy? Will this appointment create rifts in the dressing room? Keep in mind, Misbah was the one who brought Ajmal into the team, so it would surely create friction in the dressing room.

Imran Aslam: Misbah being a better captain than MoYo does not make Misbah a good captain (again also remember MoYo was never a long term captain). The complaints against Misbah are for both his batting and his captaincy and these are 2 separate chains of complaints. Saying Saeed Ajmal can’t replace Misbah as captain because Saeed Ajmal can’t bat is probably the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a very long time. Regarding his field placings and attacking captaincy, I wonder what cricket this author has been watching because in the version I got to see there have been blatant mistakes in his captaincy, starting from team selection, going on to batting order, bowling changes and field placings. Promoting Sohail Tanvir in the middle of a crucial chase, not playing JK, not utilizing Hafeez enough as a bowler when the pacers are being taken to the cleaners are just a few recent examples.

Q: Whoever said that a bowler can’t be a captain? Remember Courtney Walsh? Waqar Younis? Misbah the captain and misbah the batsman, both have flaws, but both problems are not interlinked. Speculation of what Ajmal’s captaincy will result in are baseless. Why would it create a rift if Misbah and Ajmal are that close? Once again, attacking MoYo will not change the problems that are inherent in Misbah.

6. Misbah only makes runs for himself, not the team

Mr. Ansari: This is a theory that comes less from experts and more from some members of our public. Cricket is a team game and one cricketer can’t win a match alone. I remember when Sachin Tendulkar was India’s only good batsmen; he would score countless runs, but often end up on the losing side. Was this Sachin’s fault, or the fault of the rest of his team? Keep in mind that Misbah almost always comes to bat in a crisis, where he is forced to drop anchor. Does the Misbah propeller spin slowly because it is designed that way or because it has to carry the work load of 10 other propellers?

Let’s look at one of the few matches where Misbah did not come in under pressure. During the first Test match against South Africa, Misbah came in after a fantastic opening stand and scored an excellent century that was fairly aggressive by his standards.

Imran Aslam: First of all, lets not talk about test matches suddenly in the middle of an ODI related discussion because these are 2 very different games. Secondly, if Misbah does come in to bat in a crisis every single time, why does he not assess his top order and see the reasons behind him coming in a crisis? Having said that, I dug out some stats a couple of days back in response to some post and saw that from all the times Misbah has batted at no 5, he has come in to bat with less than 50 runs on the board only 25% of the time or so.

Q: Why is the example one of a test match innings? Neither I, nor majority of the public, have an issue with Misbah the test captain or Misbah the test batsman. That is where he belongs and that is where he should stay. My sole issue is with his presence in the ODI team. He is not good for the ODI team.

To conclude, I would just like to ask Mr. Ansari and the public one question – over the past 3 years, our test performances and T20 performances have been very good. However, in ODIs, we have been quite pathetic. It is quite obvious to me that there are issues within the ODI team that are not prevalent in the Test or T20 setup. It is obvious to me that despite his batting form, Misbah, has not been able to bring out the best in his team in ODIs. Why isn’t someone willing to do something about this?

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