Misbah-ul-Haq has certainly made his mark as a captain. Statistically he is the best Test skipper Pakistan ever had. He has captained the team in 39 Tests and won 18 of them. Imran Khan who led in 48 matches managed only 14 wins. His achievement is more praiseworthy because he never got an opportunity to lead the team on home soil. All his victories were recorded abroad as the ‘home’ assignments were played in the UAE.
But is he among the greatest batsmen of the country? I think a great batsman is one who has played at least 50 Tests and ended his career with an average of more than 50 runs.
Going by this formula, Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan have been our greatest batsmen. The first three ended their careers with averages of over 50. Younis is still playing and averages 54, the highest for any Pakistani. Even a poor series is unlikely to bring him below 50 runs.
Misbah had pushed his average over 50 when he scored three successive centuries against Australia and New Zealand in UAE last year. But it came down afterwards. Currently he averages a little over 48 runs.
He can end his career above 50 runs average with a good series or two. He may not have the brains of Miandad, style of Inzamam, elegance of Yousuf and guts of Younis, but he certainly has his own class. Since late 2010, when he was made the captain, he has kept Pakistan up -- along with Younis Khan. I don’t think any of our four greats was as consistent ever as he has been in these five years.
He used to be criticised for his ‘too defensive’ approach. Someone even named him ‘Tuk-tuk’. But he silenced such critics with his knock against Australia that equaled the record for fastest Test hundred of Richards. The straight six that he hit off the bowling of Peter Siddle without going on front foot will always remain etched in cricket buffs’ memories. Interestingly he is number three on the list of batsmen who have hit most sixes for Pakistan in Tests. He is behind only Younis and Wasim Akram both of whom played more than 100 matches. Younis has hit 59 sixes in his 101 matches. Wasim hit 57 in 104. And Misbah has struck 55 in 58. Isn’t he the best, then, in this respect?
When he was overlooked for the long tour of England in 2010, where Pakistan were to play six Tests besides ODIs, he said in fury that he felt like burning his cricket kit. He rightly claimed that he averaged better than most of the players who had been included in the 17-man Test squad which faced Australia and then the hosts England. What happened on the tour proved he was right. Pakistan won only two Tests, one each against Australia and England. Both victories were achieved because of scintillating performances from the bowlers. Batsmen had little role.
But as soon as this despondent man got another chance, he not only cemented his place in the side but went on to make records both as batsman as captain. He has been leading the Test side for five years by example and hasn’t shown any signs of tiredness. So is he one of our greatest?