Misbah’s push-ups deliver on a promise
The merits, or otherwise, of putting cricketers through military-style “boot camps” have been debated at length over the years. In 2010-11, James Anderson emerged from England’s camp in Bavaria with a broken rib, courtesy of a boxing match with the squad’s Terminator lookalike, Chris Tremlett.
And four years prior to that, Shane Warne famously spat his dummy straight in the face of Australia’s then-coach, John Buchanan, after being subjected to three days in the Queensland jungle ahead of the 2006-07 Ashes. Midway through that trip (which led, coincidentally or otherwise, to a 5-0 series whitewash) he reportedly turned on his coach with the words: “I’m weak as piss, I hate your guts and I want to go home.”
Only time (and, perhaps, a few reveal-all autobiographies) will tell how some of the less naturally compliant members of Pakistan’s Test squad have taken to the events of the past few months, in which their preparations for a seminal tour of England have included beastings at the country’s Military Academy at Abbottabad, as well as intensive skills and acclimatisation camps in both Lahore and Hampshire.
But on the opening day of the first Test at Lord’s, and in the captain’s maiden first-class innings on the most famous ground in England, Misbah-ul-Haq not only gave incontrovertible evidence of the benefits of such exhaustive preparations, he even displayed enough surplus energy to drop to his hands and knees after 154 balls of stereotypically frill-free accumulation, and reel off ten press-ups in tribute to the men who had helped make his innings possible.
“That was my promise to the army guys,” Misbah said afterwards. “We did a camp in Abbottabad before the skill camp in Lahore, and we used to do an honour code every time, we just stepped into the ground and did ten push-ups. And I promised them, if ever I score a hundred, I will definitely do that to remind you that we were there.”
He did admit, on the sly, that his drill sergeant might well have sent him back to do another set of ten, given that his arms were too bent first time around, but Misbah’s gleeful team-mates on the visitor’s balcony had no such qualms about the performance their skipper had just put in.
At the age of 42 years and 47 days, and having had nothing but a diet of limited-overs cricket for Islamabad to sustain him since his victorious performances in their most recent Test series against England in November, Misbah confirmed the wisdom of his decision to stay at his country’s helm by leading from the front in the most inspirational manner possible.
In so doing, he rolled back Father Time himself – who was watching benignly from the top of the Tavern stand clock – to enter the sort of rarefied atmosphere that players of his age, and in this era, are simply not meant to reach. Among his many accolades, he’s the oldest player to score a Test hundred since Patsy Hendren in 1934, and the oldest to do so at Lord’s since Jack Hobbs and Warren Bardsley traded scores in the 1926 Ashes Test.
“Obviously when you are playing competitive cricket you don’t just think about your age,” he said, “but if you think you are [still] competitive you can take the challenge of playing that game. These records are always something special, and you are satisfied at getting these achievements, but the main thing is to perform for your team and country.”
He did that to supreme effect, and acknowledged the latter with a subtle salute towards the pavilion as he shuffled down the pitch after bringing up his three figures. “That was for the flag,” he later confirmed. And, notwithstanding the loss of two late wickets that allowed England to regain a measure of parity of a fascinating first day, his tenth Test hundred has established the sort of platform, at 282 for 6, that could yet allow Pakistan’s talented crop of bowlers to thrive in the second innings. (ESPNCricinfo)
Cover photo caption: Misbah-ul-Haq pulled off a celebration never before seen in cricket- 10 push-ups