TV debate: five things you might have missed

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

Analysis. That's what you want after a TV debate. And you have come to the right place for that, my friend. Some key points.

1. Boulton. He was quiet as a mouse. Could barely hear the guy. It was better, I suppose, than the barking Stewart, but still, I expected more volume from the voluminous fellow.

2. The changing positions. Cambo must have thought after last week, "There's no way I'm getting stuck in the middle again after that mini-tantrum sweaty terror fiasco." So in goes Clegg, and Brown and Cambo think they'll execute a perfect pincer movement ("Get real" was quite a good moment, but old Gordo, as he will, did rather ruin it by knowing it was good and therefore saying it 14 times within the space of five minutes). But what happens? Clegg looks statesman-like, the man in the middle, the third way, the one when you look to right or left that you think you'll plump for after all. He even used his positioning to his advantage, flapping his arms to indicate the tired hopelessness of those on either side. Cambo meanwhile basically drifted off the stage halfway through and everyone forgot he existed.

3. Clegg. There's something quite impressive about a politician who, after a week of such extraordinary hype, can still saunter on, hand in pocket, roll his eyes, have a laugh. When Clegg laughs you realise how clinically wrong Brown's smiling is. Without doubt, it would win first prize in the competition for "most unnatural facial movement of all time".

4. Spin Alley. I still find it so embarrassing that we are literally, in a sort of Please Let The West Wing Be Real way, trying to crowbar "Spin Alley" into our lexicon. But that's beside the point. Is there anything more pointless that hearing David Miliband, Theresa May and Chris Huhne play the "Who Won?" game. To summarise: "My guy did." "No, I think you'll find my guy did." "No, no, you're both wrong. MY GUY'S THE BEST." I find those exchanges really help to clarify the preceding 90 minutes.

5. Best thing of the night. Those shots of ahem Spin Alley as you see hapless minor politicians wandering around hoping for an interview, clearing their throats in the corner and pretending to be frantically on their Blackberry, when clearly they're just hoping to catch some local news station reporter's eye and force themselves on to their show.

Oh, and finally, the Guff champion? It's Kay Burley, of Sky News, for her alarming interview technique and saying things to Alastair Cambell like: "He looked down the barrel, your man, didn't he, didn't he?" Which left both Campbell and the viewing population of the UK entirely baffled.

 

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Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

ELLIE FOREMAN-PECK FOR NEW STATESMAN
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The triumph of Misbah-ul-Haq, the quiet grafter

How Misbah redeemed Pakistani cricket.

It was an incongruous sight: the entire Pakistani cricket team doing press-ups on the revered pitch at Lord’s, led by its captain, Misbah-ul-Haq. This unusual celebration marked not merely a Test match victory over England on Sunday but something greater: the rehabilitation of Pakistani cricket.

Seven years earlier, the Sri Lankan team bus was en route to the cricket stadium in Lahore for the third day of a Test match against Pakistan when it was attacked by Islamist militants. Gunfire killed six police officers and a driver; several Sri Lankan cricketers were also injured. That was the last Test match played in Pakistan, which, despite protestations, opponents consider too dangerous to visit.

A year later, Pakistan toured England for a Test series. The News of the World alleged that in the final match at Lord’s three Pakistani cricketers had conspired to bowl no-balls in exchange for money. All three received bans of five years or more for corruption. The entire squad was lampooned; police had to shield its members from abuse as they arrived home.

Misbah was on the periphery of all of this. Aged 36 at the time, he was dropped from the squad before the English tour and seemed unlikely to play international cricket again. But the turbulence engulfing Pakistani cricket forced the selectors to reassess. Not only was Misbah recalled but he was made captain. “You have to ask yourself,” he later said: “‘Have I been the captain because they supported me, or because they had no alternatives?’”

Pakistani cricket prizes and mythologises teenage talent plucked from obscurity and brought into the international side. During his decade as captain, Imran Khan picked 11 teenagers to make their debuts, often simply on the basis of being wowed by their performance in the nets. Misbah shows that another way is possible. He grew up in Mianwali, a city that was so remote that: “The culture there wasn’t such that you thought about playing for Pakistan.”

At the behest of his parents, he devoted his early twenties not to his promising batting but to gaining an MBA. Only at 24 did he make his first-class debut, strikingly late in an age when professional sportsmen are expected to dedicate all their energy to the game from their teenage years.

Pakistani cricket has always been “a little blip of chaos to the straight lines of order”, Osman Samiuddin writes in The Unquiet Ones. Misbah has created order out of chaos. He is unflappable and methodical, both as a captain and as a batsman. His mood seems impervious to results. More than anything, he is resilient.

He has led Pakistan to 21 Test victories – seven more than any other captain. He has done this with a bowling attack ravaged by the 2010 corruption scandal and without playing a single match at home. Because of security concerns, Pakistan now play in the United Arab Emirates, sometimes in front of fewer than a hundred supporters.

Misbah has developed a team that marries professionalism with the self-expression and flair for which his country’s cricket is renowned. And he has scored runs – lots of them. Over his 43 Tests as captain, he has averaged at 56.68. Few have been so empowered by responsibility, or as selfless. He often fields at short leg, the most dangerous position in the game and one usually reserved for the team’s junior player.

Misbah has retained his capacity to surprise. As a batsman, he has a reputation for stoic defence. Yet, in November 2014 he reached a century against Australia in just 56 balls, equalling the previous record for the fastest ever Test innings, held by Viv Richards. The tuk-tuk had become a Ferrari.

Late in 2015, Misbah tried to retire. He was 41 and had helped to keep Pakistani cricket alive during some of its darkest days. But the selectors pressured him to stay on, arguing that the team would need him during its arduous tours to England and Australia.

They were right. His crowning glory was still to come. The team arrived in England following weeks of training with the national army in Abbottabad. “The army people are not getting much salaries, but for this flag and for the Pakistani nation, they want to sacrifice their lives,” Misbah said. “That’s a big motivation for all of us. Everyone is really putting effort in for that flag and the nation.”

Now 42, almost a decade older than any cricketer in England’s side, Misbah fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition by playing in a Test match at Lord’s. In Pakistan’s first innings, he scored a century and celebrated with push-ups on the outfield, in homage to the army’s fitness regime and those who had had the temerity to mock his age.

When Pakistan secured victory a little after 6pm on the fourth evening of the game, the entire team imitated the captain’s push-ups, then saluted the national flag. The applause for them reverberated far beyond St John’s Wood.

“It’s been a remarkable turnaround after the 2010 incident,” Misbah-ul-Haq said, ever undemonstrative.

He would never say as much, but he has done more than anyone else to lead Pakistan back to glory. 

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

This article first appeared in the 21 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The English Revolt