The Pakistan-South Africa game was a tale of two captains. One who is always feted and celebrated, AB de Villiers, and the other who is always criticised and villified, Misbah-ul-Haq. (Full Coverage| Venues | Fixtures)
Their styles are different. De Villiers is a showman but Misbah is someone who weighs his options before letting it go. Both have been successful in their own right. But only one – Misbah – faces the critics’ wrath. In some ways AB and Misbah are in the same boat. They both know what it is to be the lone ranger for their sides. Misbah has endured it for close to five years since he took over as the Test captain. De Villiers is getting to know more of it now.
It is therefore hardly a surprise that both Misbah and De Villiers are in the top run-getters’ list for the World Cup. Misbah copped a lot of flak in the last World Cup for his approach in the semi-final against India at Mohali. Some joke that he is still batting at the Mohali stadium. In this tournament as well, his approach against India in the opening match of the tournament fetched him more criticism.
Misbah is called the ‘tuk-tuk’ of Pakistan cricket. They get angry with his patting the ball style of batting. His approach to let the scoring rate fall down and build it towards the end of the innings has not worked at all. But the lack of support from the rest of the batting line-up is also a reality. Criticism from former players like Shoaib Akhtar calling him ‘selfish’ will surely sting, but Misbah can only do so much.
“These conditions are not easy. We have been playing in New Zealand and Australia. If you lose confidence once, it could be really difficult for you as a batsman to just come out of that, and unfortunate that our top order is just in that kind of mental state, and they’re not getting out of that,” rued Misbah.
At Eden Park on Saturday, Misbah was once again left to do the repair job but he slowed down as wickets started falling at the other end. He refused singles and Pakistan progressed towards yet another shoddy batting display. Misbah had been exasperated by exactly this kind of approach before the match.
“It’s really difficult for me also, and with the lower and middle-order batsmen to just keep on going like that because sometimes you lose your temperament, also, and in these conditions, especially when the team is at top, it could really be difficult for you to just handle these sort of situations,” pleaded Misbah, who made 56 off 86 balls.
Thankfully, De Villiers did not have such problems before the Pakistan game. He and the rest of the batting line-up teared-apart the West Indies and Ireland bowling. They seemed to be in the form of their lives with two back to back 400-plus totals in as many matches.
De Villiers himself was batting in a style which was completely opposite to Misbah’s. On Saturday, however he was thrown into a situation like Misbah had been throughout his captaincy career. But despite his bliztkrieg approach, South Africa fell short. De Villiers finished on 77 off 58 balls with seven boundaries and five sixes. After all, De Villiers proved he is human. He was even more exasperated than Misbah was with his batsmen.
“I’ve got full faith in the ability of the players around me. That’s why they’re all here,” said a patient De Villiers.
Both De Villiers and Misbah now have a tough task in their hand to ensure that their team doesn’t become too dependent on them.
Nothing summed it up better than this plea from AB. “I know I can’t win this World Cup alone. There is no way. There is no doubt that I can’t do it alone, and I need my teammates.”