The Many Services of Misbah-ul-Haq for Islamabad United
In the inaugural edition of the PSL in 2016, Islamabad United was under the management of Dean Jones and Wasim Akram. The two former cricketers were their coach and director, respectively. Meanwhile, Misbah-ul-Haq was the captain. Islamabad United had a poor start to the tournament. However, they quickly managed to stage a comeback, resulting in them finishing 3rd in the group stage by virtue of winning 4 games out of 8.
Luckily for Islamabad, the rhythm they set never broke as they cruised through the two eliminators. First, they defeated Karachi on the back of Mohammad Sami’s 5-for and later downed Peshawar Zalmi due to a flamboyant century from Sharjeel Khan. They defeated Quetta in the final by six wickets thanks to twin fifties from Brad Haddin and Dwayne Smith. I think it would be safe to say that Captain Misbah was nearly flawless with his strategies in this season.
In the following year, the expectations were high. However, Islamabad barely qualified for the playoffs as they finished 4th in the group stage with 4 wins and 4 losses. The defending champions faced Karachi Kings yet again in the eliminator, just like last year. This time, though, Karachi got their payback for the previous year’s eliminator as they successfully defeated the defending champions by 44 runs in a low-scoring match. Hence, PSL 2 was disappointing for Islamabad United as they finished fourth after Karachi Kings knocked them out.
For the 3rd season in 2018, Ali Naqvi, the Islamabad United owner, kept faith in Misbah-ul-Haq as United stepped in to regain their lost crown. Despite losing their first game of the season against Peshawar Zalmi, Misbah held his nerve once again as Islamabad United managed to come back and finished the group stage at the top of the table with 7 wins and 3 losses from 10 matches. In the qualifier, Islamabad United ended Karachi’s streak as they beat them by eight wickets in a chase of 154 runs. This meant that Islamabad had cruised to another final in the pursuit to regain the glory that they lost last year under Misbah-ul-Haq. In the final, Islamabad United managed to overpower Peshawar Zalmi in a run-chase of 149 runs successfully. The star of the tournament, Luke Ronchi, scored 52 off just 26 balls, which meant that even though Islamabad had collapsed to 116-6, they still managed to chase the target due to a sensible finishing hand by Faheem Ashraf.
In 2019, Misbah-ul-Haq shifted to Peshawar as a player before returning to Islamabad United as a coach in 2020. With Dean Jones going to Karachi Kings, Misbah had full autonomy as a coach and had the responsibility to guide a young captain in the shape of Shadab Khan to make sure that Islamabad can regain the trophy that they once had under his captaincy. However, it proved to be an unfortunate 2020 for Misbah, the coach, and Islamabad United (just as it was for so many of us) as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the inception of the league. Not only did they not qualify for the playoffs, but they were also the worst team in the group stage with just 3 wins out of 10 matches, resulting in them sitting at the bottom of the table.
It was a disappointing end to Misbah’s relationship with Islamabad United. Ali Naqvi recently announced that the franchise would be parting ways with Misbah as their coach. Although Misbah didn’t prove to be fruitful for Islamabad United in this role, he played a crucial role for United in the 2016-2018 seasons. They were quite clearly the best team in those three years, winning 2 tournaments out of 3. With his departure from the franchise altogether, Islamabad United has some big shoes to fill.