It all started when Misbah-ul-Haq was roped in for the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup in 2007. The man who would eventually become a legend was the highest scorer for Pakistan in the tournament. It was Misbah who made the final a must see against India, and, in the process, earned a reputation for playing grinding cricket and showed his tenacity for years to come. Mibah would go on to become a regular feature across all formats of the game and was often seen resurrecting innings in frequent middle order collapses. He had his fair share of criticism and was often accused of being slow in his run-rate, but in his defense ‘it was the demand of the situation’ than his own desired approach to batting.
Misbah’s versatility in batting was emphatically epitomized when he equaled the record of Sir Vivian Richards, scoring the fastest century. Also, to his credit, he brought stability and shaped a competitive test team that rose to the summit in ICC Test rankings.
Younis Khan, the legendary cricketer whose perseverance and hunger for runs recently got him membership of the 10,000 runs club. A player with a very strong work ethic, discipline, Younis helped Pakistan get out of troubled waters on numerous occasions. He always tried to find his way to battle it out in varying conditions. He may not have the most elegant stroke player, but he was mighty effective in piling up runs which matter the most at the end of the day. He has 34 centuries under his belt which is the most by any batsmen from Pakistan till date. He steered the team to glory after winning the second edition of ICC world T20 in 2009.
A typical feat of other great batsmen, Younis had his share of controversies. His outbursts on media and lashing out at selectors when he was out of team might have helped him get his spot back. The hallmark of Younis batting was that once he dug in, he made sure to score big. Who can forget his hard fought back to back centuries against India in 2005 when his place in the team was in jeopardy. He came with a resounding reply and delivered the goods.
We will sorely miss the duo that made more than 3,000 runs in aggregate. They soaked up the pressure in many historic games. Be it securing a series win in Wellington 2015 where the veterans fashioned match saving partnerships or the defiance against South Africa in 2010, where the pair didn’t back down while chasing a mammoth 451-run target, when they scored 207 runs and secured a draw.
One highly inspirational facet of Misbah and Younis was their exquisite fitness levels. They frequently aced fitness tests in the company of exuberant youth throughout their career. Who can forget Misbah’s pushups right after his 42nd birthday playing against England last year where he spearheaded the team, managing a sensational win at Lords? His comrade Younis Khan’s was never behind, his agility and sharpness in the slip cordon testified his impeccable fitness standards.
The spot-fixing saga in 2010 defamed Pakistan cricket fraternity and nobody was eager to take the reins in tumultuous times. However, Misbah- stepped up and steered the boat extremely well, bringing many moments of glory. The team remained away from any major controversy under his leadership.
Misbah’s late entry into cricket devoid us from a strong headed batsman. His years in the wilderness were spent in performing relentlessly in the domestic circuit. His unquenchable spirit and conviction to play at the highest level bore fruit at last. He had to fight the ‘age’ stereotype and never got a fair chance to cement his place in the team early in his career.
These elder statesmen had mutual respect and were thorough professionals on the field. The final showdown in Dominica brought the everlasting image where the two legends embraced each other and brought a befitting end to their prolific careers in the penultimate over thriller. Apart from their records, the most significant contribution was that amidst Pakistan’s cricket isolation at home, the pair helped a smooth transition of newbies to the national side. The senior pros experience came in handy for the grooming of players, especially Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq who cashed in big time.
We wish the greats of the game all the best in their future endeavors and hope their legacy inspires future crop of cricketers in Pakistan.