Misbah-ul-Haq will be forever remembered by cricket fans for his audacious paddle-scoop that cost Pakistan the inaugural T20 World Cup against India. That one moment of madness from him, ensured that he will forever be castigated for his mistake, despite having taken his side so close to the target when there seemed to be no hope.
There is always a cloud hanging around Misbah's captaincy, be it for losing the 2014 Asia Cup final, or the first two ODIs against Australia in the UAE. Misbah even sat out of the third game against Australia, just to take a break and to think about his future.
All the questions were answered, when he led Pakistan to a 2-0 Test series win against Australia and leveled the Test series 1-1 versus New Zealand. Although, under him, Pakistan lost the ODI series to the Black Caps, the selectors showed faith in him and named him as the skipper for the 2015 World Cup. As soon as the squad was announced for the, Misbah decided that he will retire after the mega-event. Misbah spoke at length exclusively with The Asian Age's Atif Azam. Here are the excerpts:
Asian Age: Can you tell us something about your journey as an international cricketer?
Misbah-ul-Haq: I am extremely grateful to all the people who helped me during this long journey because it was a very pleasant one to say the least. There were times when things did not turn as per my expectations while there were times when it crossed my imagination. I took it as the part and parcel of being a professional cricketer. It was good and enjoyed my cricket and specially the way I have handled my international cricket I loved that. A lot to remember over all with the Pakistan team and it will be close to my heart as there are very good memories as a team.
AA: Was it difficult to choose cricket as a profession. I mean you had a sound education to back upon being son of a teacher and it is quite obvious that family would love to see you settled down with some secured job.
Misbah-ul-Haq: Yes at one stage it was difficult because I was not playing too much professional cricket and there were two lines to choose from as a career option. I could have gone towards my business administration and the other thing was cricket. I just choose my passion as my profession and I am happy that I just went on cricketing side. I enjoyed that and obviously when your passion is your profession you can carry on for long time and can even perform better as you are enriched with experience that will help me to decide what course of action need to chose.
AA: Talking from batting point of view you were initially considered to be a grafter with sound technique that seemed to be ideal for Test cricket. But with passing days you changed your batting to suit the requirement of different formats. It must have been a difficult initially because you are changing your total batting approach.
Misbah-ul-Haq : I think initially my background in cricket was playing tennis ball cricket and tape ball cricket in Pakistan and it is only known for hitting big shots and all those sixes. Normally you play 10 over 8 over or 6 over and have to hit sixes on every ball and that was my start. And then once I have been to professional cricket where there was four days cricket and three days cricket and Test than I had to change myself to suit that format. I had to change myself and totally transform my batting. So in terms of T-20 that was natural but I had to change for other formats. I feel that I had resisted my natural batting instinct a lot to become a Test cricketer.
AA: How do you enjoy being called the most successful Pakistan captain? Winning 26 Test matches must be something you cherish a lot.
Misbah-ul-Haq : It's always good. There is nothing better than success. Once you are called the most successful captain you always have a sense of satisfaction and it is an honor and that is something I always admire at the end of the day.
AA: You must have missed the opportunity to play in front of your home crowd.
Misbah-ul-Haq: Obviously that was something missing and it's hurt to describe in plain words because the passion that exist among us regarding cricket is simply unbelievable. But overall we are satisfied that where ever we play we played international cricket. Even in UAE where we played it was like home because we produced result, which normally team produces at their own backyard. I consider not losing a Test series in UAE was a big achievement for us. But it is hard to say whether it was as satisfying as like playing at home. We missed that and it was almost seven to eight years. I only can hope for the best but not being able to perform in front of your own people is something that will surely leave an impact on any cricketer but that is how it went.
AA: Are you watching Pakistan progress under the leadership of Sarfaraz? He turned out to be quite successful by winning the Champions Trophy. How do you evaluate him as a leader?
Misbah-ul-Haq : I think he is a very good captain coming from the Under-19 and getting all those experience especially the shorter formats that suits his nature and personality. The one-day team and the T-20 team are really going well. We are currently the number one T-20 team while winning the Champions Trophy in such a short time is quite remarkable and we can say that now our team is among the top teams in the world. I think with time and experience the team will get better in Test cricket as well because there are quite a few young players in our side. Sarfaraz as a captain have all the potential to do better in Test too.
AA: Can you tell us what it takes to lead Pakistan because you have seen a lot as a captain considering the amount of criticism you faced from different corner during your time?
Misbah-ul-Haq: I think it is very important just to know what is right and what is wrong and you just don't have to live on other people's opinion because from what I have seen there is no point taking the opinions of people too seriously. At the end of the day I have to take the decision and the responsibility of its consequences. So it is important that you carry on doing the hard work to improve your own performance and the team performance. I think when the team is performing that is enough for the critics. The most important thing as a captain of an Asian side whether it is India, Pakistan Sri Lanka or Bangladesh is patience because that is the key. You need to hold your emotions because that will help you to take better decision. It is very demanding to keep your emotions under control but if you do manage to do that it will help you as well as the team.
AA: Do you regret playing that paddle sweep in 2007 Twenty20 World Cup final against India? It must be quite disappointing as that cost you dearly by losing the game despite coming so close.
Misbah-ul-Haq: I must say one thing at that time I analyzed the situation and I picked my best shot at that pressure condition because I was so confident about it. I played that shot through out that world cup so successfully and even before and I missed that shot for the first time in the tournament. Afterwards you can think that ok I could have done this or that and could have played it differently but at the end I am satisfied that I picked my best shot about which I was so confident. Sometimes it happens that your best shot just don't pay off. Because of the occasion everyone still remembers it but afterwards I just put it behind and said no I have to move forward.
AA: Do you think it is important for a batsman to back his own strength because we have seen quite a few losing their way after being criticized for failing to deliver playing through it? You just mentioned that ok I need to move on and this decision helped you in the long run.
Misbah-ul-Haq: I think you cannot play cricket or bat thinking about what others think. You have to back your strength because in that kind of pressure situation your best shot is more likely to pay. Sometimes you get out playing drives or cut shot but that does not mean that you stop playing those shots because you need to back your strength irrespective of what others think. I always believed that you need to show your character while batting and it is hard to change it because then it is not you but someone else. Each batsman have an own identity and it is extremely crucial you don't lose it because it takes a lot of hard work and long time to earn that unique identity.
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