Misbah-ul-Haq’s is unmistakably Pakistan’s most indispensable cricketer. The 39-year-old captain’s story is at once improbable and remarkable. After debuting in 2001 days shy of his 27th birthday, he struggled to find a regular place in the team for the next six years.
Against conventional wisdom, Misbah was plucked from the dust heap to lead Pakistan cricket into the post-match fixing era. Now he is the team’s leading batsman at age 39 - ranked 7th in Tests and 8th in ODIs.
How has this come to be?
Misbah boasts a measly 4 international hundreds, all in Test cricket. A player with such a dearth of big scores doesn’t often conjure greatness, but Misbah’s worth can only be fully assessed by looking beyond the numbers.
Most importantly, he is Pakistan’s rock. As captain, he has presided over a period of intense turmoil after the match-fixing scandal of 2010, and led the team to surprisingly good results (the loss to Zimbabwe notwithstanding). The hundreds haven’t been forthcoming, but his steady fifties have often been the glue that held many an innings together.
One of the knocks against Misbah has been his slow scoring. Thus, his record in ODIs is quite the revelation - scoring 31 fifties at a respectable strike rate of 73.59. Not only has he scored runs with an enviable consistency, but somehow he seems to be getting better with age. In 2013, he leads all ODI run-getters with 961, amassing 11 fifties at an average just north of 60.
Where would Pakistan’s batting be without Misbah as the rock?
How much longer can he perform at this level?
What does it mean for Pakistan cricket to rely so heavily on a batsman who is - to put it crudely - so old?
These questions will hover over Pakistan cricket as long as Misbah features heavily in the team’s set-up. Still, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. After Pakistan suffered a shock defeat to Zimbabwe last month, the team rebounded to demolish South Africa inside of four days - a match in which Misbah’s contributions were crucial.
Earlier this year, Misbah was referenced on the U.S. cable drama “The Newsroom” - pretty cool for a guy that was once an afterthought. Now he is Pakistan’s rock and saviour, deservedly so.