x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Old and beautiful

The absence of regular skipper Shoaib Malik for the Asia Cup tie against India may have been a blessing in disguise for Pakistan.

Misbah-ul-Haq handled the captaincy in superb fashion in Shoaib Malik's absence.
Misbah-ul-Haq handled the captaincy in superb fashion in Shoaib Malik's absence.

KARACHI // The absence of the regular skipper Shoaib Malik, due to dehydration, for the Asia Cup tie against India may have been a blessing in disguise for Pakistan. It meant the burden of captaincy was passed to Misbah-ul-Haq, and he commanded the post as if he had been born to it, guiding his side to a rousing eight-wicket win.

Cool-minded, even-tempered and old, Misbah continues to defy the stereotypes of the average Pakistan cricketer. While everyone around him have been losing their heads in this Asia Cup, the 34-year-old Punjabi has remained a beacon of reliability. Misbah was an old man in Pakistani terms when he first established himself in the national team. He earned his first central contract last year when he was 32.

Contrast that with Nasir Jamshed, the opener who hit a stirring half-century against India before succumbing to cramp. He is just 18 - yet is already playing his fourth year of first-class cricket. The years spent in the wilderness have afforded Misbah an alternative perspective on the game, and he was able to cool fraying nerves as his side set about chasing an imposing target of 309 against India.

The stand-in captain said: "We were looking a little negative and I told the players to be positive. The main thing was to try to play with a positive frame of mind. "We played with a different gameplan. We have kept wickets in hand in previous matches and tried to up the tempo later, but this time we changed that." Misbah's most high-profile moment in a Pakistan shirt to date came when he was bowled out in the final of the World Twenty20 against India after taking his side to the brink of victory.

However, he was up to the task this time round, hitting the winning runs, and he said: "It gave me great pleasure to do that. "Sometimes you get close but it doesn't happen, but when you don't do it, you shouldn't let it play on your mind. You just try and finish the next one." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae