The greatest achievement of Misbah-ul-Haq lies in how he changed the stereotypical image of a Pakistani captain. Such was the history from Imran Khan onwards that we, on the outside, had bought into the portrait of what a Pakistani captain would be: Chest-thumping, imperious, passionate — anything but orderly and methodical. It took Misbah to show us the mirror — we were projecting our own blind spots and perceptions onto the country’s cricket team.
Of course, we weren’t entirely to blame. Pakistan’s cricket lived in the extremes: From losing their heads in an utterly silly fashion to being mystifyingly charged up on an unknown reserve of unadulterated passion. It took Misbah to bring order and sanity to the emotional madness. When he came on as captain, it seemed they had propped up a most un-Pakistani player — practical, logical. By the time he retired, he made us feel sheepish about our assumptions and glib labelling, such was the calm assurance and tactical nous he showed over the years. And without leading a single Test match in his home country.
The captaincy isn’t his sole calling card. His batting first illumined those latent qualities. In his early days, he was seen as an one-trick pony — either all-out attack or dour defence. Slowly, he started to mix the two to arrive at a balance of sorts. He would forever be frozen in the memory of Indian fans for the paddle scoop he played to hand India a famous triumph in the T20 World Cup and give a great impetus to the IPL’s birth. His fans will remember all those moments under the floppy hat, the upper body stretching as far ahead as humanly possible, eyes focused, hands ready to anaesthetise the moving ball.