- It’s probably in ours stars
Pakistan has suffered yet another clean sweep Down Under. This was the first overseas tour under Misbah-ul-Haq. In all fairness, considering past tours of Australia, the result would likely have been the same with or without Misbah at the helm. Misbah has only recently taken charge of the team. And he wasn’t particularly helped by the selection of the team either, but again it was his first time as the chief-selector as well, so it would be unfair to blame him for the whitewash. Some people are making a big deal out of Pakistan’s No. 1 ranking in T20Is, but that’s neither here nor there, for before the Aussie tour Pakistan had also lost to a depleted Sri Lankan team at home, which was Misbah’s very first assignment as a coach.
Misbah finds himself in the unenviable position of having to fill big shoes. As chief selector he replaces Inzamam-ul-Haq (shoe size 11), and as head-coach Mickey Arthur, who is also a big man. The good news is that Misbah never shirked a challenge. Just recall how he managed to land his current jobs. He was one of the members of the PCB cricket committee that evaluated the performance of Arthur and that finally recommended not extending his contract. Having done so, he promptly applied for the now-vacant position, successfully. Some people have pointed out that there’s a conflict of interest here, an issue that warrants a flashback to 2013.
In November of that year, Misbah, as captain of the national team, had appeared for a TV interview with Najam Sethi, on the latter’s programme Aapas Ki Baat. Sethi was, of course, donning his journalist hat during the programme; but being the PCB chief at the time, he happened to be Misbah’s boss as well. I remember watching the interview with a very opinionated friend about whom it would be difficult to say whether he is a bigger fan of Misbah or Sethi (it takes all sorts to make a world). I had remarked how Sethi could have missed the obvious conflict of interest involved. My friend had responded to this in these golden words (which I quote verbatim): ‘I fail to see any conflict of interest.’ I remember telling him that if he didn’t see a conflict of interest then, he will never see one in his life. Of course, I wasn’t the only one who thought the programme should never have been aired. Many people in the media asked the same question, and this is how Sethi responded to all the criticism: ‘I don’t see anything wrong in this. Some perennial naysayers say there is a conflict of interest. I say this was in the public interest.’ Misbah would be more than justified to dismiss any conflict of interest allegation – in public interest, of course.
While the frustration of the cricket fans is completely understandable, all this criticism of Misbah is unwarranted, unfair and, frankly, unprofitable. Misbah is, after all, a national hero who single-handedly converted more humiliating defeats into ‘honourable’ ones than anybody in the history of limited overs cricket
Misbah flowered relatively late in life. It appears that luck, which wasn’t on his side in his youth, started favouring him more and more as he aged. In 2010, when he was out of the team in all formats, he was tempted to burn his cricket equipment. Fatefully, he resisted the urge. In the aftermath of the spot-fixing scandal, he made a comeback, as Test captain. Soon after playing a particularly selfish and typically tuk-tuk innings in the World Cup semi-final against India (which contributed significantly to the defeat) he was offered ODI captaincy as well, which he accepted gleefully. And why not? For Misbah is all about maximising potential. He wasn’t done after retirement either, for he succeeded in becoming the national coach with zero experience of coaching even a school side.
All fears of Misbah being overstretched by being chief selector, head coach and batting coach all at the same time should have been laid to rest by his accepting a fourth responsibility as the coach of Islamabad United in the PSL competition. Those who still have doubts obviously don’t know Misbah. His plate is never full: in addition to admirably discharging his four duties, he probably will have time to compose and sing the official song for the upcoming PSL season (if required) and still have ample time left to ensure that nobody ever sees one grey hair in his beard. As for the conflict of interest in coaching Islamabad and the national team simultaneously, we have already seen that that’s a worry only when it comes to ordinary mortals.
There’s no danger whatsoever of the Australian losses ending up dispiriting Misbah, because his whole career is a study in taking defeats in the right spirit. While the frustration of the cricket fans is completely understandable, all this criticism of Misbah is unwarranted, unfair and, frankly, unprofitable. Misbah is, after all, a national hero who single-handedly converted more humiliating defeats into ‘honourable’ ones than anybody in the history of limited overs cricket. What is the cricket enthusiast to do then? Well, there’s a great lesson for us all in the story of that legendary pathan who had, with no prior warning whatsoever, jumped on to the stage, dagger in hand, where Munni Begum was entertaining, at 2 am just when the diva had entered the fifth straight hour of her Jhoom barabar jhoom sharabi. His words, uttered when she must have thought that her end was nigh, are full of wisdom for generations to come, including our own. ‘Khocha tum hamaara mehmaan hai. Tum mat daro. Hum to us khabees ko dhoondta hai jo tum ko yahaan le kar aaya hai.’