There have been three great captains of Pakistan. The first was A.H. Kardar, the country’s first Test captain. Born in Lahore, and talent-spotted by the senior Nawab of Pataudi, Kardar played for India before Partition. He led Pakistan to victory over India in its second-ever Test match in Lucknow in 1952, and even more famously over England at the Oval Test in August 1954. Uniquely, Kardar won at least one Test match in Pakistan’s inaugural series against each other country.
Pakistan’s next great captain was Imran Khan, the all-rounder who inspired his country to a famous World Cup victory in 1992, and now has honourable aspirations to become Pakistan’s prime minister.
The third is Misbah-ul-Haq, and he has a claim to be the greatest. On statistics alone his claim is indisputable: 20 wins in 42 Tests as captain. Imran had 14 wins in 48 Tests, Kardar six in 23.
But most importantly, Misbah became captain in the wake of two disasters. The first was the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus at Lahore in 2009. This incident immediately condemned Pakistan to international isolation. No Test side has visited Pakistan since. Pakistan’s international players have been condemned to a perpetual shuttle between foreign hotel rooms, cut off from extended family and community networks which count for so much in Pakistan. So-called ‘home’ matches are played in the UAE, in echoing deserted stadiums.
The second calamity took place the following year when the Pakistan team toured England. Three of its players, including the captain, Salman Butt, and its brilliant young opening bowler, Mohammad Amir, were entrapped by the News of the World. The team was disgraced and the three players involved were later sent to jail.
At that dark hour, there was reason to doubt the survival of Pakistan cricket.