Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan are the heroes that Pakistan deserved, but no longer the ones it needs right now.
The curtain is finally coming down on the respective careers of Misbah and Younis. The men who have led Pakistan through thick and thin, through the few highs and the many lows of Pakistani cricket are finally bidding farewell. These two men have carried a nation on their shoulders for best part of the last decade. They have paid their dues and served their country with all their heart and soul.
Misbah was the light that shone in the darkness; the beacon that led Pakistani cricket to safe shores from dangerous waters. He took a team that no one else believed in and dragged them to the top. Misbah took Pakistan to the summit of Test cricket, becoming the number one ranked team in the world. Could any other man have achieved the seemingly impossible? After being dropped aged 36, and having played just 19 Tests, he took over a nomadic team in 2010 from which Younis had been banned from playing, Shahid Afridi had been fined for biting into a cricket ball, and three players – including disgraced former captain Salman Butt – were serving time in prison for spot-fixing. In spite of this, Misbah brought them the Test mace.
Misbah put his team before anything else. His career tells the story of a man who put his nation before his own personal success. It was his duty to lead Pakistan and he did just that. He played whatever role they needed from smashing sixes to get Pakistan down to needing 6 off 4 in the 2007 T20 World Cup final to scoring consecutive 99s against the West Indies in his final Test series. He is the highest run-scorer in ODI cricket to have not made a century, having scored 5122 runs with a top score of 96*. The ageless man has made 37% of his Test runs since turning 40. In the last three years he has scored over a third of his career tally of runs and it looks as though he could go on if he wanted to.
It will be a severe shock to the system when not only Misbah leaves, but also the great Younis Khan. On April 23rd, Younis made history as the oldest man and the first Pakistani to join the exclusive 10,000 Test runs club as only man to achieve this with more centuries than fifties. Since Saleem Altaf, Pakistan’s team manager, threatened to drop him in India in 2005 he has been a rock for Pakistan, and for the next decade Younis held a Test average of 60.41.
Younis holds a number of accolades, from being the only player to score the Grand Slam of centuries in the eleven countries that have held Test matches, to leading Pakistan to the T20 World Cup title in 2009 (achieved just weeks after Pakistani cricket had been devastated by the terror attacks in Lahore), but it’s his fourth innings runs that have made him so special. The rearguard specialist holds the most number of centuries in fourth-innings totals and has scored 1465 runs when chasing at an average of 50.52. His ability to not only absorb pressure but also thrive under it have made him invaluable to Pakistan, and he will be desperately missed not only by the players but by the fans too.
A new leader won’t change much for Pakistan. In fact they’re going to realise just how much they have relied on these two giants to get them where they are today. Pakistan don’t have it easy being a country that’s ‘home’ is away from home but they don’t help themselves. After their win against England in August at the Oval, only one player – Sami Aslam – played a first-class match before their next Test against the West Indies in October. As much as we like to imagine it, Pakistan are no fairytale team. They have their magical moments but have their flaws like everybody else. Now they will need to work harder than ever to fill the shoes of Misbah and Younis as they play their final farewell Test against the West Indies.