There has to be a very close contest for the most hated personality in Pakistan between the president Asif Ali Zardari and the current Pakistani cricket team Captain Misbah-ul-Haq Khan Niazi. While the president deserves the hatred for his utter ineptitude, it is very hard for me to understand the hatred for Misbah while he is hailed by experts all around the world. Obviously at this point you will tell me that you hate him because he cost Pakistan two world cups. I will come to that later.
I have observed that the people at the root of spreading this illogical hatred are usually die-hard Shahid Afridi fans. The proof of that is the fact that his nick name ‘tuk tuk’ was coined by none other than Shahid Afridi’s daughters in an interview after the 2011 world cup semi-final loss to india. The hatred spread even more when Afridi left the ODI captaincy and it was handed to Misbah, and the fans, being conspiracy lovers, spread rumors that Misbah was behind Afridi’s temporary retirement. There have been Afridi vs Misbah captaincy and player comparison debates ever since. I am writing this article with the hope of ending this ridiculous debate once and for all.
Afridi vs Misbah is a very ridiculous debate, there is no comparison between the two players, one is a top-order solid defending batsman, whereas other is an all-rounder. Their temperament, technique and methods are different, but since these wannabe cricket fans are adamant, this topic has to be discussed and concluded once and for all. Now, it is so easy for me to be biased in this discussion but I will try and stick to the statistics of these two players to see which one of them has performed better as a player, as a match winner, and as a captain. But before I begin, I want to clarify some points:
1-If you think Misbah cost us two world cups and you will always hate him no matter how much successful he has been apart from that, then stop reading this article right here, in fact stop watching cricket altogether because you’re either a football freak who watches cricket with the perspective of a football game (needless to say, comparing cricket with football is quite ridiculous in itself) or you think people like Syed Yahya Hussaini and Abdul Majid Bhatti are cricket experts, in both cases you have no knowledge of cricket whatsoever and you have no right to criticize anyone with your illogical arguments.
2-The only comparisons which can be made between the two are their batting performances and their captaincy. Since Misbah is not an all-rounder, bringing Afridi’s bowling in to this debate is illogical and it shall not be discussed.
Moving on, let us start the discussion with their career comparison:
In Tests, Misbah has played 36 matches, scored 2284 runs with 3 centuries and 17 half-centuries at an average of 45.68 and a highest score of 161*. That means Misbah scores an average of approximately 45 runs before losing his wicket. It is worth mentioning here that a batsman with an average of 50 is considered a great batsman in all formats of the game. Shahid Afridi has played 27 tests in his career, scored 1716 runs with 5 centuries and 8 half-centuries at an average of 36.51 with the highest score of 156. In other words, Afridi scores an average of approximately 36 runs before losing his wicket. It is quite ironic to notice that a player who is viewed as a T20 specialist has his best batting average in test cricket. You might argue that being an all-rounder this is an OK average for Afridi and you will be right, it is, but Afridi has retired from test cricket.
Misbah 1-0 Afridi
Coming to ODIs, in 109 matches, out of which Misbah has batted in 98, he has scored 3052 runs with 20 half-centuries at an average of 41.24 and the highest score of 93*. Again, that means in ODIs Misbah scores an average of approximately 41 runs before getting out, which in my honest opinion, is a good score. On the other hand, in 349 matches, out of which Afridi has batted in 323, he has scored 7075 runs with 6 centuries and 33 half-centuries at an average of 23.24 with the highest score of 124. “That is quite impressive” you will say, no, it is not, because the average means Afridi scores approximately 23 runs before getting out, which is not impressive at all. So,
Misbah 2-0 Afridi
In 39 T20Is, out of which Misbah has batted in 34, he has scored 788 runs with 3 half-centuries at an average of 37.52 with the highest score of 87*. That means Misbah scores an average of approximately 37 runs before getting out. In T20s scoring 30 runs is similar to scoring a half-century in ODIs, that is why when the broadcasters show a player’s profile, they also show the number of times that players has made a 30+ score (I think soon this statistic will be available on cricinfo too). Meanwhile in 58 T20Is, out of which he has batted in 55, Shahid Afridi has scored 845 runs with 4 half-centuries at an average of 16.90 with the highest score of 54*. So, you’re thinking that is a good record because Afridi is a great T20 player? Nope, sorry to disappoint you, but the average of 16.90 suits a bowler, not an all-rounder of hitting-sixes fame. In English, this record means that Afridi scores an average of approximately 17 runs before getting out, which is almost half of the minimum acceptable good score in T20Is.
Now, a lot of Afridi fans argue that he has an impressive strike rate and it is the SR that is important in ODIs and T20Is. Allow me to explain, strike rate means the number of runs a batsman scores on 100 balls in an innings, or in other words, the pace at which a batsman scores. I presume the Afridi fans hear the word ‘Strike Rate’ constantly from the commentators and think that makes Afridi a good batsman. Well, sorry to say (again), what the commentators DON’T tell you is that the strike rate means NOTHING without that player’s average. What I am trying to say is that Afridi’s strike rate (the highest for a Pakistani in T20Is) is 142.97, which means he can score approximately 143 runs off 100 balls, but when you look at his average of 16.90, you realize that despite his strike rate aka massive ability of hitting sixes, he still only manages to score 16-17 runs per innings. Now combine Afridi’s strike rate and average and it tells you that Afridi can score 14 runs off 10 balls or 17 runs off 12 balls, in other words, a six and out.
So, Afridi’s low T20 average despite a very good strike rate means Misbah is more reliable than him in T20Is.
Misbah 3-0 Afridi
“Afridi is still a better captain than Misbah.” Here is the captaincy record of both players (it also includes the 3rd ODI between India and Pakistan in Delhi):
Since Afridi captained the team before Misbah, let me discuss him first. Under his captaincy, Pakistan has played 54 matches across all formats, won 26 and lost 27. He is a good LOI captain you say? Well, Pakistan has played 34 ODIs under Afridi, won 18 and lost 15, and in T20Is, Afridi has led Pakistan in 19 games, won 8 and lost 11. If you still don’t understand, these statistics mean Afridi was not a good captain. Moreover, as a captain, Afridi has scored 1093 runs in 51 matches across all formats with 2 hundreds and 2 fifties at an average of 22.30 with the highest score of 124, whereas Misbah (under Afridi’s captaincy) has scored 805 runs in 28 matches with 7 fifties at an average of 40.25 and the highest score of 93*.
On the other hand, Pakistan have played 59 matches across all formats under Misbah’s captaincy, won 36 and lost only 15. Pakistan has played 34 ODIs under Misbah’s captaincy, won 21 and lost 12. Misbah has led Pakistan in 8 T20Is, won 6 and lost only 2! As a captain, Misbah has scored 2384 runs in 67 innings across all formats with one hundred and 18 fifties at an average of 50.72 with the highest score of 102*, whereas Afridi (under Misbah’s captaincy) has scored 445 runs in 25 matches with only 2 fifties at an average of 19.34 with the highest score of 75.
“Afridi gelled the team together after the spot-fixing scandal and led them to world cup semi-final, Misbah was just lucky”.
As you can observe in the above records, Afridi has more losses under his belt than victories, which means despite having lots of talent in both batting and bowling departments, the Pakistani players were not very well gelled under Afridi’s captaincy and failed to deliver more often than not. Misbah on the other hand has the highest win-loss ratio by a Pakistani captain and the 5th highest for ANY captain in the history of cricket. He also has his career best batting average of 50.72 as captain. So,
Misbah 4-0 Afridi
“Afridi is a match winner, Misbah only plays for his stats”. Given the previous two comparisons, this is an illogical statement, but anyways, here is a list of matches Pakistan has won while chasing a target in which these two have played:
Shahid Afridi has been a part of the Pakistani team in 105 victories across all formats, out of those he has batted in 80 of them, scored 2014 runs at an average of 30.51 with 2 centuries, 9 half-centuries, 14 not-outs and 3 ducks. In ODIs, Afridi has been a part of the team in 90 successful chases out of which he has batted in 68 scoring 1798 runs at an average of 31.54 with 2 centuries, 8 half-centuries, 11 not-outs and two ducks. Afridi has seen 14 T20 wins for Pakistan while chasing, out of which he has batted in 11 scoring ONLY 195 runs at an average of 24.37 with one fifty, 1 duck and 3 not-outs. Pakistan has won 10 matches (All ODIs) while chasing under Afridi’s captaincy, out of which he has batted in 7 scoring 115 runs at an average of 19.16 with no centuries, no half-centuries, no ducks and 1 not-out. Pakistan has either never won while chasing, or never had to chase in T20Is during Afridi’s captaincy.
Misbah-ul-Haq has seen 65 successful chases by Pakistan across all formats, out of which he has batted in 59 scoring 2507 runs at an impressive average of 80.87 with 2 centuries, 19 half-centuries, 28 not-outs and 1 duck. Misbah has been a part of 38 successful chases in ODIs for Pakistan, out of which he has batted in 28 scoring 1012 runs at an average of 84.33 with no centuries, 8 half-centuries, 16 not-outs and 1 duck. Whereas in T20Is Misbah was a part of the team in 10 successful chases out of which he has batted in 7 scoring 206 runs at an average of 68.66 with no centuries, one half-century, 4 not-outs and no ducks. Misbah has led Pakistan in 25 wins across all formats while chasing, out of which he has batted in 29 innings scoring 1309 runs at an average of 81.81 with no centuries, 13 half-centuries, 13 not-outs and no ducks. In ODIs, Pakistan has had 12 successful chases under Misbah’s captaincy out of which he has batted in 10 scoring 381 runs at an average of 95.25 with no centuries, 3 half-centuries, 6 not-outs and no ducks. Whereas in T20Is Misbah has led his side in 2 successful chases batting in both of them scoring 72 runs at an average of 72 with no centuries, no half-centuries, 1 not-out and no ducks.
The above-mentioned stats tell us that Misbah has almost always contributed in successful chases for Pakistan with an overall average of 80.87 and a slightly better average of 81.81 as captain. Whereas Afridi hasn’t contributed much in Pakistan’s victories while chasing with an overall average of 30,51 which drops down to 19.16 as captain.
Misbah 5-0 Afridi
What about the matches Misbah cost us with his slow batting, you ask? Well: Across all formats, Misbah has been a part of the Pakistani team in only 32 (9 as captain) unsuccessful chases, out of which he has batted in 39 innings (10 as captain) scoring 917 (300) runs at an average of 24.13 (30.00) with no hundreds, 6 half-centuries (2 as captain), 1 not-out (none as captain) and 4 ducks (none as captain). In ODIs, Misbah has been a part of the side in 17 defeats (6 as captain) while chasing, out of which he has batted in 17 (6 as captain) scoring 464 (205) runs at an average of 27.29 (34.16) with no centuries, 3 half-centuries (1 as captain), no not-outs and 1 duck (none as captain). And in T20Is, Misbah has been a part of Pakistan in 8 defeats (2 as captain) while batting second, out of which he has batted in all 8 (all 2 as captain) scoring 159 runs (41) at an average of 19.87 (20.50) with no centuries, no half-centuries, no not-outs and 1 duck (none as captain).
On the other hand, Afridi has been a part of the Pakistani team in 95 (13 as captain) unsuccessful chases, out of which he has batted in 100 innings (14 as captain) scoring 1811 (335) runs at an average of 18.11 (23.92) with 2 centuries (1 as captain), 5 half-centuries (none as captain), no not-outs and 16 ducks (1 as captain). In ODIs, Afridi has been a part of the side in 78 defeats (8 as captain) while chasing, out of which he has batted in all 78 (all 8 as captain) scoring 1336 (239) runs at an average of 17.12 (29.87) with 1 century (as captain), 4 half-centuries (none as captain), no not-outs and 13 ducks (1 as captain). And in T20Is, Afridi has been a part of Pakistan in 12 defeats (4 as captain) while batting second, out of which he has batted in 12 (4 as captain) scoring 108 runs (63) at an average of 9.00 (15.75) with no centuries, no half-centuries, no not-outs and 3 ducks (none as captain).
So Afridi has contributed more to Pakistan’s defeats while chasing with 16 ducks and an average of 18.11 (23.92 as captain) compared to Misbah’s 4 ducks with an average of 24.13 (30.00 as captain).
Misbah 6-0 Afridi
“Misbah cost us the World T20 in 2007 and the World Cup in 2011, and that too against India, BLASPHEMY!”
As you can see in the score-cards of both games, Misbah was the top-scorer in both whereas most of the remaining batsmen failed to contribute, especially Afridi who bagged a duck in the World T20 2007 final and gifted his wicket in his trademark fashion after scoring only 19 in the semi-final of World Cup 2011. So it would be more logical to blame all the batsmen who failed to contribute instead of the player who top-scored and took us so close to victory. Furthermore, if you look at Misbah’s strike rate in the 2011 semi-final, it is higher than that of Hafeez (who made a ‘quick’ 43) and Younis Khan, which refutes the claims that Misbah put pressure on other batsmen with his slow batting which caused the other batsmen to play rash shots and get out.
Misbah 7-0 Afridi
“Afridi has 35 Man-of-the-Match awards, most sixes, the highest six etc.” Although hitting the most number of sixes is a great personal achievement, Afridi’s career average suggests that all those sixes mostly hardly had any impact on the bigger picture of Pakistan being successful as a team. As for the man of the match awards, I have mentioned at the start of the article that we cannot bring Afridi’s bowling in to this discussion since Misbah is not a bowler.
To conclude this very long discussion, if a coach/selector had to pick a reliable batsman for his team from Afridi and Misbah, he would pick Misbah, if a coach/selector had to pick a captain for his team from Afridi and Misbah, he would pick Misbah, if a coach/selector had to pick a finisher from Afridi and Misbah, he would pick Misbah. If a coach/selector had to pick an entertainer and a heart-attack inducer from Afridi and Misbah, he would pick Afridi. So,
Final Score: Misbah 7-1 Afridi
In the end, I would like to say that this comparison was just to shut up some Misbah haters. In reality, both players play for one team and they have no problems with each other. Who are we to compare them? Who are we to make groups in our own national team? Instead of supporting/bashing Misbah or Afridi, why can’t we support the TEAM when they win and even when they lose? Sure you have the right to criticize players, but only if you can support that criticism with facts and figures, not with copy-paste quotes from ignorant news anchors on biased news channels who only want to break the team apart. And if you can’t support the team, then stop watching cricket and let the real fans of this game enjoy it in peace.