Friday, January 20, 2012

Team Misbah Means Business

The current Pakistan test team has an uncanny resemblance with its greatest ever test team of the 80s which was their most consistent period in test cricket and towards the end of it they also reached the number 1 spot on the test rankings for a short while. This test team have only lost 1 in 13 tests since the infamous Lords test in 2010 and won 7 tests in between that time including 2 emphatic wins inside 3 days by margins as high as 10 wickets when a tough test was expected. A draw in Abu Dhabi will give Pakistan their 2nd longest undefeated test series streak of 7 series without losing one and ofcourse they will have the chance to extend that even further. The highest was by the team captained by Imran in the 80s who went 10 test series without losing any. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that the team of the 80s and the current test team are the two of the best Pakistan have ever had in the 5 day arena. The team of the 90s had out and out match winners and record breakers, they were probably the most entertaining, but as a unit they were less consistent and stable in their performances, although they had their moments of spark in between. Below I look at some of current players with those of the 80s and early 90s and see where the similarities are.

Misbah ul Haq may not have the charismatic and talisman vibe of Imran Khan, but his own performance levels as a captain are definitely comparable where the added responsibility of leadership has positively affected his individual contributions – having the highest average by a Pakistan captain of all time with 11 50s and 1 century in 13 tests as captain including 4 unbeaten 50+ scores in that package. In terms of education levels, he is up there and has been able to command the respect of the players as a result. Misbah ul Haq has always been renowned as one of the smarter men in the team and has been identified as genuine captaincy material throughout his career at the first class level and even in the Pakistan team where he was promoted to the post of vice captaincy just a few months after his comeback and went on to captain Pakistan when previously he did not even have a place in the side, giving clear indications of a captain who is strategically astute. Both Imran and Misbah have played their part in changing the face of Pakistan Cricket when they were totally up against it either through unbearable controversies or lack of firepower in comparison to opponents. Both have provided vast stability and continuity with their presence and acted as the father figure to the team who exceeded expectations and made the team believe in themselves. Statistically, with results under his leadership Misbah’s record is about as great as it gets. Both captained in their late 30s when most would be considering packing up and calling it a day.

Abdur Rehman can be compared to Iqbal Qasim, the slow arm orthodox bowler, who will plug away at the batsmen economically and accurately with tremendous control, building pressure, racking up the maidens and enticing mistakes from the batsmen, enabling the more superior spinner to attack and experiment more in shorter bursts as they already have a reliable, but touch defensive persevering spinner holding an end up to keep proceedings tidy with nagging craft.

Saeed Ajmal’s psychological tactics to send jitters down the throat of batsmen and give the sleepless nights with his hard-to-negotiate unorthodox variations can only be comparable to Abdul Qadir’s mixture of leg breaks, googlies and flippers which got him 236 test scalps, famously bamboozling England in his home city. Only had he been playing in an era of DRS where batsmen could not use their pad as a second line of defence, he would have had countless more wickets to add to that record. Both have been revolutionising the art of spin, although the obvious difference between an off spinner and leg spinner stands, but both are seen as strike weapons by Imran/Miandad and Misbah who had great faith in their abilities.

Azhar Ali as the firm and steady stodgy accumulator who prizes his wicket head and shoulders above anything else, preciously, can only be compared to the immaculate resistance of Mudassar Nazar who based his game around crease occupation for lengthy periods with a high level of discipline, unfazed character and application. Both have the capabilities to play a dogged innings with regularity, basing their batting around workman like values, making batting seem as survival of the fittest in trench warfare, although the approach will be labelled inevitability as pedestrian and sedate from the critics.

Adnan Akmal can be compared to Wasim Bari who is a safe bet behind the stumps with his neat and efficient glove work. As a batsmen his FC record is a misleading reflection of his talent with the bat as he has demonstrated in some busy, invaluable lower order contributions he has notched up for the team although Bari was no great batsmen in his day, but a very reliable and technically sound wicket keeper who will not be in the headlines, indicating he was getting the job done and dusted without any fuss.

Younis Khan can be compared to Miandad at the time – a worthy street fighter with the bat who will make the most of what he has got and a sharp cricketing mind to pick up on aspects quicker than others and really apply this in match scenarios. Both Miandad and Younis average in excess of 50 for Pakistan at test match level and were/are the influential middle order batsmen who played spin expertly. Their mental toughness and spirited nature cannot be doubted. Additionally, a comparison can be drawn from their catching and fielding in general where both are amongst the best around if not the best.

Aamir Sohail can be compared to Mohammad Hafeez – a smart and knowledgeable cricketer who opens the innings with consistency and can attack classily or defend stoutly, playing according to the situation. Also,both can turn their arm over when required for more than handy finger spin.

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