Cricket has been in the world for more than a century now. It is one of those sports which confer on its players, not only fame, but also a developed character and loads of respect. This is why it is called a “gentleman’s game”.
In our short lives, we have seen not less than a hundred players entering cricket and more than a dozen retiring as gentlemen. A career of any player is a graph which is totally in their own hand. If they work hard and keep striving for improvement, the graph goes up. Once it reaches the peak, the real struggle start. Now, the aim should be to covert that peak into a consistent plateau till they say farewell to the professional cricket.
To choose one amongst all the greats is a tough task. There is no parameter of comparison once a player enters the list of Great Cricketers. Some made their places for their batting skills, others were exceptional at bowling. Some were just too good a leader while others knew how to deal with pressure.
Among those are the names of Brian Lara, Rickey Ponting, Imran Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Waqar Younis, Waseem Akram and many more. If I recall, somewhere in the blurriest of vision, I do remember the great Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Sachin Tendulkar playing. I won’t do justice if I claim I adore these men playing because I never saw the ups and downs of their careers. I never witnessed the tough times they faced, yet, all I know is what I have read, heard and seen in documentaries which are all based on the brightest parts of their lives. Therefore, I may feel a pleasure to break the norm and name some different here. Someone who I have watched while growing up and who I have truly adored throughout.
He made his international debut in 2001 but was soon forgotten as many players in our system have always been, but this guy had a different attitude throughout. He, unlike others continued with his studies along with his cricket. He completed his masters and has a sound knowledge of science and management. His attitude in and out of the field was a complete reflection of him being an educated learned man with a respectable family background and a very calm personality. He got proper recognition, in a very negative way, during the T20 world cup 2007, in which he played well throughout but gave away a catch in the final which his team lost to arch rivals. That was the moment which turned him into a villain but with his composure kept him in the sport and took him forward where he was handed the toughest ever task of leading a team that had three star players accused of spot-fixing, including the captain.
Misbah-ul-Haq, is still not liked by many who watch the sport but know very less about it. Misbah-ul-haq, took that broken and torn-apart team and lead it through all the thick and thins. He was the man the nation looked forward to when we had a top-order collapsed. He, with the management, worked day and night to take the struggling Pakistani side in the grounds of Oval and Lords and win and draw test matches there against England. In modern-day cricket, where bats shower runs, he would stay on the pitch and play slow usually but when required, he would beat all high-hitters to level a decade old fastest century (now 2nd fastest) record by ‘Sir Viv Richards. He could play a cool test innings, and would turn into a master blaster in T20 games. In toughest or harshest situations, Misbah would stay calm and not utter a single word that would defy his upbringing.
He holds a record of most runs in ODIs without a century. He led Pakistan to Asia Cup victory. He brought the Test mace to Pakistan. During his captaincy, Pakistan was considered as one of the toughest sides to beat in tests. Misbah did too much for the cricket of Pakistan, yet faced hatred and criticism. But he never stopped. Till the game of his career for the country, at the age of 42, he gave his best and he gave all he had.
For me, if we sort out the greats this game has ever seen in the modern era, Misbah would lead the table. Others may be contenders due to their performances but what Misbah-ul-Haq showed us was lot different. It was composure many now lac, it was calmness not many have now, it was the professionalism that we see in very fewer players now and it was the sophistication that the game of cricket needs. Many may not agree with my opinion and there is no comparison to the greats of the game in past, but in modern-day cricket, Misbah-ul-haq stands as greatest for me.