Misbah-ul-Haq didn’t drop a catch. Misbah didn’t misfield the ball. Misbah didn’t throw wildly. Misbah didn’t kick the ball. Misbah didn’t bowl head-high full tosses. Misbah didn’t fall over.
Misbah’s one mistake in the field was taking a ball at mid-off, and instead of shying at the stumps as the West Indian batsmen seemed to mock him by walking their single, he held the ball. He saw little point in it with the opposition score at nearly 300. The ball before was a six, there would be two more in that over.
It was a mistake, perhaps, but one of a broken man. And Misbah had not yet batted.
There was a moment earlier when it appeared like a Pakistani fan had entered the field. This man appeared lost, out of shape and middle-aged, and was suddenly thrust into the spotlight when a thick edge circled above him at third man. It was unfair to ask this man to complete a task as tricky as catching a ball struck in his general direction. Later another one would be hit to third man. An unusually tall man of limited coordination was there, perhaps a security guard who has wandered in the wrong direction.
Both balls hit the ground.
Neither were crowd members though; the latter was Mohammad Irfan, of whom fielding seems an unnecessary punishment. And the former was Nasir Jamshed, who made such a mess of a relatively simple catch that he picked up an injury, left the field and didn’t return for the rest of the innings. When he batted, Jamshed would face two balls. In total, he made two mistakes in the 5.1 overs he was actually on the ground. A mistake every 15.5 balls.
Then there was Umar Akmal. Reporting the keeping of any of the Akmals almost feels like bullying. The first time he believed an edge had been taken, he was so nervous he bumped the ball up and only took it again because he’d rebounded it so high it sat up for him. There was no edge on it, though, so who knows what imaginary deflections the ball took in his mind. Later he would drop an actual catch. It was regulation for an international keeper, but not so for Akmal.
Then the slow bowling of Haris Sohail. The ball landed on the pitch, stayed there for a moment and then travelled away very slightly from the batsman. Lendl Simmons is beaten, by the extreme lack of anything on the ball. He tried to cut it; he had enough time to turn around, back away, and cut it on the legside. But that severe lack of pace did him in. And this is the bit where the ball goes into the keeper’s hands, and he oohs, and/ or aahs as it nestles safely into his gloves. This ball barely touched the glove at all. For a minute, in front of thousands at the ground, millions on TV, Pakistan’s wicketkeeper turned into a stage prop. From a distance he looked like a person, but upon closer inspection he was actually just painted on a piece of plywood.
Shortly after to prove he can move again, Akmal runs around the batsman when the ball is blocked in front of him and flicks it back at the stumps. Which almost gives up a run. When Akmal bats, his first mistake is not taken by West Indies, and he doesn’t make another until he is 59.
There was, probably, a time when Shahid Afridi was a top quality fieldsman. That time was hard to remember as he dropped, not one, but two, pull shots. Later, as two fielders in the ring refused to go and pick up a boundary, Afridi stood just as close as them to the ball, but turned his back. Afridi made less mistakes than his entire top order with the bat, but was still out off a full toss.
It was rumored that Grant Luden, the Pakistani fielding coach, tried to resign before this match. It was because some players were not respecting him. They took that disrespect to amazing levels on the field. There were no fewer than seven mistakes by Ahmed Shehzad alone.
Shehzad was at point, the position you put your best fielder. He moved to balls quicker than most of his team-mates; he fumbled them much in the same manner. He batted in their manner also. At one stage, when Shehzad’s hands could take no more beating, he thrust his groin at the ball to stop it. Here was Pakistan’s point fielder, in the ring, with the ball right there, and the West Indies jogged a single as he writhed in agony. There he laid, the perfect representation of Pakistan’s fielding: painful and almost untreatable.
Wahab Riaz’s pitch map looks like he vomited it up rather than bowled it. Before each slower ball it seemed like the Pakistanis had informed West Indies of their decisions. They bowled at the death like their plan was to have no plan. When they did get it right with the ball, they were unable to build any pressure as they had precisely no fielders on the field who could ever stop a single. If the West Indies laid bat on it, it was runs. This one recurring mistake from Pakistan almost led to a run out when Darren Sammy declined a single, shocking Simmons enough that he could have been run out had Sohaib Maqsood picked the ball up and thrown straight. He didn’t pick it up. They didn’t all day.
The West Indies mistake was somehow not making 400, or, 500.
Younis Khan had balls go straight through him at short cover, and then perhaps his best bit of fielding almost ended up terribly when his throw at the stumps hit Darren Bravo on the helmet. When Younis batted, he was gone so quickly it would be hard to call it a mistake. But he has averaged 21 over the last three years in ODIs. His selection in the first place might have been the error.
If you get into Pakistan selection bloopers, you might never come out. You could be drowned in Sarfraz Ahmed queries, or bemused by the missing person case of Fawad Alam, or why on earth Yasir Shah was dropped. Everything Pakistan dropped made them look silly.
There is also the case of Haris, who in his entire career has bowled 68 balls in first-class cricket, and had bowled two forgotten overs in List A matches until the end of 2014. He was Pakistan’s fifth bowler. Ajmal is out. Hafeez is out. At one stage, possibly exhausted from bowling nine overs, he didn’t even see what should have been a simple catch at deep point. It dropped seven feet from him. Bat in hand, he simply guided a ball to gully. Sohail summed up Pakistan: He shouldn’t have been bowling, he was rubbish in the field and he somehow managed to bat worse.
When Misbah was asked whether the batting, the bowling or the fielding was worse, he just smiled and said “Everything.”
Misbah made a mistake when he batted. By then, the mistakes the team had made ensured the match was gone. But his mistake was largely indistinguishable from that 73654 that Pakistan committed before him.
At the press conference, Misbah either used gallows chuckles or cold, hard stares at the floor. The smile was for the ridiculous nature of the question; the stare was for the cold, hard reality of the answer. What is Misbah to do? He tried talking to his bowlers. He tried hiding his fielders. He tried batting for his team. Nothing works. There is nothing to work with in his squad. There is no hope, no form and no magic.
Just mistakes. Pakistan’s mistakes. Misbah’s mistakes. Mistakes.