DateLine: 31st December 2011
What a year it's been for the men in green! The prophets of doom and gloom of 2010 have passed away and this year, the Pakistani team has scripted positive results and made their nation (longing to host international cricket at home) smile.
They have won 24 ODIs out of 31 and haven't lost a Test series this year. Certainly a result to relish, but this has been possible because of team unity which in turn has been made possible by a man whose innocent face and laid back personality which helps hide the flash of knowledge he bears in his big skull.
Misbah-ul-Haq has been able to gain respect from a side that is perennially fractious. When made captain in 2010, Misbah gained support only from Jeff Lawson, who was then Pakistan's coach; but other than Lawson, none gave him a chance as a player, let alone as a captain.
Time passed, series after series came along and the Skipper's unflappable temperament started to shine brightly. Misbah's year started with a Test series win over 'The Black Caps' and since then he never looked back. The series in the Caribbean was drawn, Zimbabwe was outclassed, the Lankans were destroyed and The Bengal Tigers found no answer to the Pakistani juggernaut.
1996 was the only year in which Pakistan was so vicious in Tests and after 15 long years the men in green are basking after such an astonishing year. The Pakistan Team of 1996 were world beaters with world-class performers and this Pakistan team, on paper at least, is not yet anywhere near that team.
There is no Wasim, Waqar, Anwar, Ijaz, Saqlain or Mushtaq in Misbah's team but it has players who responded to their Skipper's call, players who wanted to give their all for the sake of the country and for its people's passion. The players were transformed from a procession of soloists into an orchestra by a leader, named Misbah-ul-Haq.
The 'spot-fixing saga' had severely damaged and plagued Pakistan cricket and it was left wandering in a dark and lonely cave last year. Pakistan cricket team needed a man of steel to show them the way forward and guide them out from that dark cave. Misbah-ul-Haq has been that man of steel for Pakistan this year. He talks little, preferring to let his bat and his team do the talking for him and believes in action which was evident throughout the year.
While Shahid Afridi and Waqar Younis were pillow-fighting, Misbah remained focused on each series that came along. Captaincy didn't add extra pressure on him but it galvanized his own form. This year in Test cricket, Misbah made 765 runs at an average of 69.54.
Afridi's cock-fight with the PCB led him to lose his ODI captaincy and Misbah grabbed that opportunity too. His record has been simply astounding, leading Pakistan to 13 wins from 14 ODIs.
After being re-selected and repairing his relationships with PCB, Shahid Afridi dazzled with his bowling but less so with his batting, Hafeez was in top touch throughout the year, while Saeed Ajmal was simply magical but they could not match Misbah's responsibility of leading a side, a side who are arguably the toughest to lead in world cricket.
There is clear freshness and conviviality in the Pakistan dressing room, a welcome sign. The youngsters now have a firm and faithful hand on their shoulders. Internecine politics has been blown away along with petty quarrels in the Pakistan team to become a united team singing the song of unity waiting to dazzle in 2012. They now 'know' what playing as a unit means. A realization installed by Captain Misbah-ul-Haq. Undoubtedly, he is the player of 2011 for Pakistan.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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