Sometimes in the cosmic journey, life contrives for kindred souls to cross paths: two people who may be separated geographically, ethnically, economically, even politically, but who are one at the most elemental, human level.
As Angelo Mathews and Misbah-ul-Haq look across their battlements in Sri Lanka, they may meet each other's gaze, and know they are a lot alike.
The last time the two met in Tests, they could not have had more disparate days. Defending a 1-0 series lead, Mathews embraced an extreme form of conservatism and his team drowned in it on the final day in Sharjah. With no choice but to launch an unrelenting attack, Misbah kept his side in the match long enough, until after a whirl of bludgeoned drives and reverse-sweeps from way outside leg stump, he hit the winning run to complete a frenetic victory.
Pakistan have been dormant in Tests since that day, but Mathews has had a busy six months, in which both he and his leadership have grown up, and grown old - grown a little more like Misbah. Now, when Mathews speaks or acts, he is defined by a sense of unshakeable calm. A lot has happened to him in the recent past, with a series win in England and loss at home against South Africa, but a short time after coming off the field, Mathews was no more delighted at Headingley than he was distraught at the SSC. Misbah is past 40 now. Though at times he still bats like he is 25, there is a timeless stoicism to everything in his every move. His words are delivered in grey baritone.
Neither captain is an exemplary tactician, but both are natural leaders in other ways. Misbah's batting average is almost 28 runs better when he is captain. In 11 Tests at the helm, Mathews has statistically been more than twice as good as he was before. They have each inherited a legacy of instability, with captains coming, going and occasionally coming again in the few years before they each took the helm. But since Misbah has had the reins, Pakistan's road has been less...
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