Dear, Kaptaan, King, Quaid, General Misbah

That is how we (your jiyalas) call you on Twitter and I can imagine you shrugging your shoulders and slightly smiling after reading this – if you ever read this that is. People talk about role models and how people achieve greatness. Most people talk about athletes like Messi, Ronaldo, Sachin and so on but for me you are another great role model; the way you have handled yourself over these past six years would have broken a lesser man. To face such criticism from "journalists", "ex-players" and some fans too, but you have always kept smiling and made your bat do the talking. Any other player would have retired after that final in 2007 or the semifinal in 2011 but you kept going. People said you were a defensive batsman and you replied by breaking the fastest fifty record and equaling the fastest hundred. People said you weren’t a good captain, you replied by becoming the most successful Test captain in our history. You have led our side from its darkest period six years ago, you have led them through exile and you have done it in a calm, cool and dignified manner, with a smile on your face. You never gave up on his dream to play for Pakistan and became a regular only after the age of 35. Most people retire at that age but not you and you could have retired after the English series with an unbeaten record at home, but you thought your team needed you and you put your legacy on the line. You hadn't played international cricket in 8 months and were told that you are too old for England but once again your country needed you and he answered the call with a brilliant century at Lord’s and two half centuries. You have led the team to a series draw in England, a series where everyone thought that you would be humiliated; but once again you and the team proved everyone wrong. You have led the team to within touching distance of the number 1 ranking in tests. A team that has been exiled from home, hasn’t played a home series in six years, and yet it is on the verge of becoming the best test side in the world. The team has not lost a series at “home” since its exile, hasn’t lost a series in two years and this was the first Test series outside of Asia in six years. The sheer size of the success that you have helmed is without parallel in the history of cricket and possibly the world.

This confession of love came to mind when you came out to bat on the last day of the first Test against England last winter with the same clichéd story, Pakistan sinking like the Titanic and you joined forces with another old warhorse Younis Khan to try and save the team from defeat again. Some things never change, do they? But as it looked like once again you would save the day, you suffered a rush of blood and charged down the pitch and were bowled. One can only wonder what was going through your head; maybe it dawned on you that no matter what you did for the nation, the nation would never hail you or maybe you realized that “you were too old for this sh*t” – trying to stabilize a shipwreck that was also simultaneously on fire and the passengers were blaming you for everything.

This piece like your batting didn’t come to life till the last over on the first day of the second Test when you bludgeoned Moeen Ali to score a century as you one again guided the team to a respectable total and the same thing happened in the second innings; once again you joined forces with YK to guide the team to an imposing total and when the team couldn’t get a crucial wicket you told Yasir Shah what to do – lo behold just like Midas’s touch the next ball, clean bowled. The end of day approached but Adil Rashid stood like Rahul “The wall” Dravid between the team and victory. The team got jittery but you always remained cool calm. With 6.3 overs to go, Adil gave in and Pakistan had won, the unbridled joy on everyone’s faces including yours was priceless. Throughout this and over the course of your captaincy, you have remained cool, calm and dignified. Whatever criticism has been thrown your way, you just shouldered and carried. One can’t help but wonder if you are the real life version of the Greek titan, Atlas who had to lift the sky on his shoulders. You carry a whole nation on yours.

I didn’t become an instant fan of yours, but you wormed yourself into my heart. I remember seeing you play in the inaugural T20 World Cup and the clearest memory I have is of that ball when you scooped the ball and the rest is history. Fast forward three years and you were made captain of a team that had been exiled from its home and bankrupt in every conceivable way. Your first task was to play South Africa at Pakistan cricket’s home away from home, the UAE. Sounds clichéd but the team surprised everyone as they drew the series and you were in the center of it all. Two captain’s knocks and this would become your hallmark – so began the legend of Misbah-ul-Haq.

Veteran journalist Nadeem Farooq Pracha aptly named you the first wartime captain cricket has seen. You have led a team that has been forced to play its home matches at neutral venues for over six years, in front of empty desolate stands which would look at home in a horror movie. The team has had its ups and downs but they come as a part of the package of being a Pakistan cricket team fan. Supporting the Pakistan cricket team is like being in love with chocolate; you know too much of it will cause you diabetes but you don't care. It's that abusive relationship, that you live for those few moments of love and will endure all the beatings. It's that elusive high that will lead to an even bigger low. It's that scant light at the end of the tunnel. It's an unconditional, unfathomable, unrequited and one sided love that no matter what you will come back for more. A lot has been written about your captaincy and I won’t be doing that. This humble fan wants to thank you for your services. Cricket will miss defensive shots followed by a shuffle towards the off-stump and heaving the ball for a six. Cricket will miss those awkward smiles in the face of rabid criticism, the shrug of the shoulders and the calm demeanor. You will never get the credit or the praise you deserve. You took over the captaincy of the team and guided us through the darkest days of our cricketing history. You have always been cool, calm and dependable. How many times have we hung onto hope just because you were batting… you will always be criticized from being too defensive to having low strike rate. You will always just shrug it off and keep playing with a smile. You took over one of the weakest sides in our history, if not the weakest and steadied the ship.

We had highs and lows under you, but you took over when no one wanted to. You have the highest average of any Asian batsmen outside of Asia; you have whitewashed two of the best test teams in the world with a rag tag group of players. You helped chase down 300 in two and a half test sessions. You helped achieve the impossible when we were 13/2 and went onto a chase a record 378. You are the most successful Asian captain outside of Asia and you will retire as the only captain to have never captained his team at a home venue.

The only guy who plays for the team not for personal glory, the greatest captain we had. The man who stood between Pakistan and the darkness, the man who shone like the North Star and guide Pakistan through the turbulent waters. The man who saved Pakistan cricket.

You have won over most of your critics and tonight I am so happy for the man who has given everything for his country and never asked for much, even after taking so much criticism. My heart is overjoyed by the fact that everyone in Pakistan is happy for Misbah and they have started realizing what you have done. In your own words after the victory at the Oval “This team has given so much to me, playing and proving people wrong". Ah King Misbah...

Misbah in his own words:

“Ten years from now no one will read anything about me. They'll just see my record. And they'll think, 'Oh, so this guy played only in his 30s and still averaged 50? Oh, he averages 44 in ODIs and won this number of games for Pakistan? Oh, this was his record in won matches and successful chases.' That is all anyone will care about. Ten years after you leave, who cares if anyone in the press box was with me or against me? My legacy will be in my numbers.”

Your legacy will be so much more than just numbers, numbers alone can’t do justice to it. I will tell my kids, grandkids about you; about the man who made a whole nation believe, the man who made a whole nation dream and the man who made a nation the best in the world. Thank you, Kaptaan, General, Quaid, and King.

Mard-e-Momin. Mard-e-Haq. Misbah-ul-Haq, Misbah-ul-Haq.

Forever in your debt,

A proud Pakistani cricket fan