India are champs…Part 5…that fateful last over…

Nicely written piece by Harsha Bhogle here…put me on track to write about something that kept running in my mind — why did Misbah get out ?

Sympathy is a word that has often been used with Misbah-ul-Huq, a fine player who twice brought Pakistan to the brink of victory. He even picked a good shot but found Joginder Sharma didn’t have the pace on the ball to take it beyond the edge of the circle. Misbah will know, more than anyone in world sport at the moment, that the ability to finish games separates the great players from the good. A lot of teams can bring a ball to within three yards of the goal but it requires a great striker to put it at the back of the net. Strikers are valued because they finish moves, great golfers are those that play the 18th as well as the previous 17, even the boxer who dominates a bout needs a finishing punch. Misbah didn’t have it.

While I believe that Misbah did seem to lack the killer instinct, I also believe there are things that need to be looked into. There are lessons in this episode for all those batsmen who, in future, will have to finish off games in the final over.

I have seen quite a few last-over finishes and I have a theory about these things: batsmen will try and finish off the match as early as possible when it goes down to the last over. They will risk playing low-percentage shots, they will go for singles (or twos) that seemed impossible only an over ago. They simply cannot bear to wait. Remember Lance Kluesener in the 1999 World Cup Semi-Final against Australia ?

South Africa needed one run to win with three balls to go. He was in terrific form, having just hit Damien Fleming (one of Australia’s top bowlers in that tournament) for consecutive boundaries. He was SA’s star performer in that tournament.

So, with three balls to go and the Australians at his mercy, what did he do? He went for the most impossible single I have ever seen in international cricket !

People have asked why. He could have waited for 2 more balls. He could have hit the ball past the in-field….in the end, he tried to scamper a single…damp squib !

Coming back to the T20 final, to understand Misbah’s cute shot, we need to go back a week to the league encounter between the two sides. Pakistan needed 1 run off two balls with Misbah on strike. He tried to push the first of those two balls to the offside for that single, failed. Last ball, he did not want to take chances. He went at the ball with his eyes closed. Unfortunately for him, he did not connect and, to add salt to his wounds, was late on the single.

So, here is Misbah in the finals in a similar situation against the same adversary. Chance to make amends. 4 balls to go, 6 to get. He could have waited a couple of balls before launching again into the hapless Joginder Sharma. Or, he could have pinched the gaps for a couple of two’s ….he was seeing the ball well. Sharma was not exactly high on confidence and it was only a matter of time before he bowled that “hit-me” ball again.

But Misbah cannot get his mind off the previous encounter. No, he cannot wait this time, he decides. it has to be now.

Where can I get a four and finish this off for good ? Ohh…fine-leg up, deflection ? scoop ? … deflection may not get the ball past fine-leg at Sharma’s pace…scoop it is then… !

The one thing I was thinking before that shot was played was: no matter what, I don’t think he will hit the ball in the air, especially with only one wicket in hand (the Everton Weekes mode of thinking).

Just goes to show what pressure and past failures can do to a fine mind.

In closing, I like to think of Misbah as some kind of “reverse-Miandad”. What Miandad did to India all those years ago with that last-ball six, Misbah is doing to Pakistan with his “semi-finishes” against India !

Related Posts:

Ongoing “India are champs” series:

India are champs…Part 4…social repurcussions…

India are champs … Part 3 … questions..

India are champs … Part 2 ..Shoaib Malik’s comments

India are champs … Twenty20 Final Highlights

India are champs … Part 1

links for 2007-09-28