That Misbah-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi wear the same uniform is one of the scarce similarities between the pair who between them have led Pakistan’s one-day team for the past five years. Another is that their one-day careers will end once Pakistan’s World Cup campaign does.
Afridi will be remembered most for his longevity and his ability to produce memorable cameos, mostly good but some infuriating – like holing out in a batting collapse or biting the ball in his second match in charge. Misbah will be remember for his consistency as captain, his ability to maintain a sense of stability in a team that has long needed strong captains who have insulated players from any turmoil surrounding their team.
Even those sceptical that Afridi is as young as he is listed to be, 35, cannot dispute how impressive it is for him to be still playing in a career that began for Pakistan in October 1996. Only Sachin Tendulkar, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumar Sangakkara have played more one-day matches.
The biggest impact Afridi made was to bring Twenty20 batting to one-day cricket long before his peers considered it. That is reflected in his strike rate of 116.98 more than in his record of 8041 runs at an average of 23.48. Of the 73 batsmen to have scored at least 5000 runs in one-dayers, only one, India’s Virender Sehwag, has also scored at better than a run a ball, at 104.47.
Afridi’s bowling record of 395 wickets at 34.44 and 4.63 runs per over with his leg-spin is also commendable.
When Afridi stepped down as captain soon into Pakistan’s next tour after the 2011 World Cup, where they had been semi-finalists, his replacement was Misbah, a batsman nearing his 37th birthday who was reliable but otherwise thoroughly unremarkable.
Since being appointed captain Misbah has proved himself adept at playing the firefighter role – a rescuer in times of crisis – having scored 2969 runs at 44.98. That those runs have come at a strike rate of 71.66 has been a trait that, despite his reliability, has seen him attract criticism from Pakistan pundits and supporters.
In his 148 one-dayers he has scored 42 half-centuries without once reaching a century. His top five scores are all unbeaten innings, with two of them in the 90s. That puts him well ahead of the next-closest peer in that regard, New Zealand’s Andrew Jones, who in the 1990s reached 50 on 25 occasions without once making a century.
Misbah turns 41 in May but cuts an overtly fit figure, even to players almost half his age. The match against Australia will take him to level in third place with Inzamam-ul-Haq for appearances as Pakistan captain with 87, behind only greats Imran Khan (139) and Wasim Akram (109).
Misbah said he is proud of the legacy he and Afridi would leave on the Pakistan team after the World Cup.
“I’m pretty satisfied with what I have, and especially what Shahid has, achieved,” he said on Thursday. “The biggest satisfaction is that we gave everything to our team and country.”
Misbah was nevertheless adamant that he and Afridi would not, and should not, treat the match against Australia any differently because of the potential for it to be their last.
“Obviously this World Cup, and this game, is still not over and we would really like to go good in this tournament, especially trying to win tomorrow’s game and go further . . . that’s what our desire and dream is,” he said.
If Pakistan were able to defy the odds and reach the final, it would allow Afridi to finish his career with 400 one-day appearances.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.