We are a nation that thrives on sensationalism. A people who prefer the thrill of temporary highs, over the humdrum of (boring) stable progress. We are a culture that loves our demagogues. We are a country of dharnas and Long-Marches; of hourly deadlines and conspiracy theories; of boorish talk shows, and crass comedy. We have chanted slogans in favor of Mumtaz Qadri’s gun, and celebrated sell-outs like A.Q. Khan as our heroes.

In the sporting culture, we rally behind the aggression of flaky openers, the waivered pace of showman fast-bowlers, and the flashy blade of Boom Boom dynamites (which are about as reliable as WAPDA!).

In this land of the sensationalists, the fickle, and the fleeting, there is no place for a man like Misbah-ul-Haq.

As this humble man, this unassuming captain, devoid of all the glitter that modern day sports brings with it, bows out of his cricketing career, we will never again witness perhaps the most familiar sight in present day Pakistani cricket; 25 for 4, in 12 overs, and in walks a tall man from Mianwali, with the number 22 at the back of his shirt, and the emblem of Pakistan in front, exactly over his heart. We will never again have the perverse pleasure of ridiculing him as ‘tuk-tuk’, while he ignores the outside noise to rebuild the Pakistani innings towards a (somewhat) respectable total. We will never again have the opportunity of asking him uncomfortable questions, in the post-match press conference, about why he did not score faster, or why he attempted the reverse sweep. We will never again have the satisfaction of criticizing his approach towards rescuing Pakistan’s batting collapse, from the comforts of our living rooms. We will never again yell at him, through our television screens, for not having taken a slip, or opting for a conservative bowling change.

As Misbah hangs his cricketing-shoes, retiring from international cricket, he has had the exceptional grace to not vocally respond to our constant barrage of criticism and misplaced anger. He has had the character to thank the fans, the senior players, the management, and parted with an expression of confidence and hope for the future of cricket in this land!

But as this humble soul walks quietly into the sunset, it is pertinent to look back at his career and rejoice at the quantitative and the qualitative lessons that he has attempted to teach all of us.

From the numbers perspective, Misbah is the most successful test captain in Pakistan’s cricketing history (better than Imran Khan!), winning 15 test matches, drawing 8, and losing only 9. During his test-playing career, which started in the year 2001 against New Zealand, he has averaging over 49 runs. And almost as a statement of defiance to all his critics, Misbah concluded his test career by scoring the fastest fifty (in 21 balls) and the fastest century (in 56 balls), against none other than Australia! In ODI’s, Misbah averages 43.4 runs, with 42 fifties, and a highest score of 96 not-out. Poignantly, almost as a microcosm of Misbah’s cricketing career, Misbah scored his unbeaten 96 during the Champions Trophy 2013, against West Indies, but was unable to complete his maiden century because he could find no other batsman to stick around at the crease with him. And this solitary existence, at the non-striker’s end, watching helplessly, as others perished to an ignominious surrender, searching for that one swing of glory, has been the hallmark of Misbah’s excruciating stability as a batsman.

But perhaps the greater achievement of Misbah as a cricketer, a captain, and a human being, is not revealed through the cricketing statistics. The genius of Misbah emanates from his humility. In a nation that ridicules the humble and celebrates the gaudy, Misbah has swam in the waters of cricketing fame, without ever being seduced by the dark side. His hair have neither turned blonde, nor been spiked. His demeanor has neither been belligerent nor bewildered.

There is no scandal to his name. Taking over captaincy in the wake of perhaps the darkest period of Pakistan’s cricketing history – from spot-fixing scandals to refusal of international teams to visit Pakistan – Misbah has demonstrated, through his character and his performance, that we are a nation that possesses the most extraordinary brand of talent, character and resilience. That we are a people who are as composed off the field, as we are ferocious on the field. He has shown to our people that flashy shots and fierce bouncers are not the only things to celebrate in cricket. That ‘tuk-tuk’ has its virtue. That a long string of singles, count for more at the end of the day, than a few peppered boundaries. And that a cricketing hero need neither look macho, nor talk flashy. Lessons that we would all do well to remember.

As Misbah, perhaps the last of the old-school greats of Pakistani cricket, leaves the field, having given (in his own words) ‘all he had’, it is imperative that we honor his memory (and that of other bygone greats) by restructuring the way we think about cricket in Pakistan. For them, if not for anyone else, we must find a way to reinvigorate our domestic cricketing culture. Sporting talent, all across the world, is identified, cultivated and groomed, at its infancy, in the educational institutions. Because in the modern age, sports and education go hand in hand (Misbah after all, has an MBA from the University of Management and Technology). Talent alone is no longer sufficient to cope with the evolving standards of international cricket; each player must have a thinking and creative head on his shoulder. An approach the sport, as well as to life, that can handle the paraphernalia of a sporting life, while simultaneously enriching the player within. For this purpose, it is time that we invest in sports scholarships in all major educational institutions in our country.

In the post-college paradigm, it is important to invest in, and develop, a rigorous domestic structure, across regional and corporate lines, which is meritorious in nature. A culture that gives preference to factors such as discipline, fitness and education, as much as it values raw talent. Graduating from the domestic structure, groomed players must be embraced by a cricketing board that is democratically elected, and independent of State interference; the supreme governing body that enjoys confidence of the people, as opposed to patronage of the Prime Minister.

And through this fresh rethinking of our cricketing ideology, let us all vow to pay our respects and gratitude to Misbah (and others, before, like him), with a promise that they will be able to see glimpses of their best self in every future Pakistani cricketer.