Sport, unlike anything else we know, provides us with so many heroes and antiheroes. But there are also character actors—actors that never become the A-list, yet have served their roles with the same or generally a better level of equanimity than a top performer. Pakistan batsman Misbah-ul-Haq is the ultimate character actor. Someone who was truly under-appreciated by his countrymen and the cricket world in general. Yes, he has given India fans two fantastic moments that will be etched in our memory for generations. One, the famous 2007 T20 WC final debacle, and the other, the choke in Mohali in 2011. But calculating his worth just by two games is unfair. Leading a team like Pakistan in any format and from the time that he has been leading the team, is not easy. Someone once said about former Australian captains Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting that even a dog could lead a team with Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in it. Pakistan is perhaps the extreme opposite of that. It needed and continues to need people with the least amount of drama attached to them, yet they need strong-willed people who can tame the rowdiest of characters. Misbah personifies. He also personifies the Dark Knight syndrome. For the entirety of the Misbah career, he accepted that his job was not to please the public but to carry all the frustrations of the nation on his back, and yet give them momentary relief that only a sportsman can give by showing his talents.
World tournaments in cricket have generally been won by people who had the better story or someone who has never won the cup or the country that needs the win the most. As an India fan, I (Parth) hope Misbah does not win it. But as lover of the sport, if he does raise the trophy . . . let’s just say, I won’t be too disappointed. Good and decent characters who play the game in the right spirit need to be rewarded.
I know I don’t need to mention it to cricket fans who will watch the ultimate game—India versus Pakistan—for sure. But to those for whom cricket is a novelty . . . well, this is the best novelty act you might see in the business (other than the Ashes). It’s on February 15th, 2015 (that’s February 14th for those watching in the United States, starting at 10:30 p.m. EST). Enjoy it with your loved one after a scrumptious Valentine’s Day dinner.