x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Misbah-ul-Haq must enjoy his Pakistan playing days while it lasts

Misbah's dips in fortune have been followed by inexplicable flashes of brilliance which have resurrected his career on many occasions.

Forecasting the progress of any given player in Pakistan cricket is a dangerous occupation. When it comes to such matters, objective analysis of a player's abilities as an indicator of how far he will go in his career is virtually useless.

Take the recent example of Shoaib Akhtar. At the beginning of the 2011 World Cup, he was touted as a shining example of Pakistan's desire to take on the world. Yet, by the time Pakistan played their last game in Mohali against India, he had been unceremoniously dumped from the squad, promptly declaring his retirement from all forms of cricket. The fall of a great player was severe but not unexpected.

Not surprisingly, Misbah-ul-Haq's career seems to be following the same pattern. The only difference? Shoaib's decline was slow and steady as his pace slowed. Misbah's dips in fortune have been followed by inexplicable flashes of brilliance which have resurrected his career on many occasions.

A cursory look at Misbah's career will demonstrate the career path of a typical Pakistani Test player. He has played just 25 Tests in a span of 10 years, and was brought back and then dumped once again to the jungle that is domestic cricket. There have been many comebacks followed by disappointments with a few discards in there for good measure.

Misbah made his Test debut in 2001 in Auckland, scoring 28 runs. He was overlooked for four years, called back to play against South Africa, and followed up with a successful tour of India where he scored a memorable 161 in Kolkata.

He followed that successful tour of India with a decent home series against Sri Lanka in 2009 - a series, unfortunately, made infamous by the militant attack on the visiting team in Lahore and the end of cricket at home.

The following winter of 2009 and early 2010 proved to be a struggle for Misbah as he managed only one half-century against New Zealand and Australia in eight innings. Calls for his dismissal and claims that he was "over the hill" had started to become commonplace.

The struggles in the southern hemisphere duly translated into the exclusion of Misbah from the squad for the England tour of 2010. His international career seemed to be slowly sliding into oblivion; only a dramatic turnaround would save him from becoming history.

On a fateful evening in the summer of 2010, Misbah was served with another chance at redemption. The News of the World expose to trap the Pakistan captain Salman Butt and two others on charges of spot-fixing threw Pakistan cricket into a spin. Yet the same event also threw a lifeline to Misbah. Suddenly, a player who was struggling to find a place in the line-up was presented with an opportunity to lead the team.

This time around, Misbah was not to disappoint his followers. Even though in the eyes of many fans, his 2011 World Cup campaign ended in failure as he was unable to guide Pakistan to semi-final victory against India, his Test career was revived.

Since his appointment as captain, Misbah has confounded his critics by scoring eight half-centuries in 11 innings - his final half-century being converted into a match-winning century at St Kitts in West Indies.

It would be fair to say that Misbah is now enjoying the form of his life.

The results of the series aside, the fact is that in not losing this Test series, Misbah became one of the most successful captains of Pakistan Test cricket, leading Pakistan through three series without loss.

Surely, even at 35, his position as captain of the team must be guaranteed until he finally hangs his boots. But if the example of Shoaib is any indication, he should not take anything for granted. The fact is that Pakistani knives come out at the slightest sign of failure.