Misbah-ul Haq was quietly confident when it emerged he would lead the side after Shoaib Malik failed to recover in time for the India-Pakistan match. No matter how capable and confident a player is, the challenge of leading a team as dispirited and "divided" as Pakistan in a do-or-die match is enormous.
Misbah wasn't perturbed, though. "As vice-captain, one has to be ready all the time to be asked to step into the captain's shoes. So even though it has come at short notice, I am not worried," he said on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Misbah showed what he meant as he guided Pakistan to a eight-wicket win over India. He not only led the side well, but also came up with a crucial match-winning knock, showing he could soak in the pressure without letting his performance get affected.
"The pressure is always there when you are playing for your country. It doesn't matter if you are leading the side or not, one is expected to handle it (pressure) and perform," said Misbah, on being asked about the pressure before the crunch game.
Confident he might have been, but Misbah wasn't unaware of the challenge on hand. "The team had actually slipped into a somewhat negative mindset after losing a couple of matches. I just told them to forget about the last games and be positive, back up each other, enjoy the game, and keep trying to get the desired results," said the stand-in skipper.
The words seemed to have had the desired effect as the team showed a lot more enthusiasm and aggression with seniors like Mohammed Yousuf, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi looking a lot more involved.
Apart from boosting the attitude, the skipper also fine-tuned the strategy Pakistan had gone with so far. "We had gone into most of the matches with a strategy to save wickets at the start and launch an all-out attack towards the end of the innings. But against India we decided to go all-out right from the start as the wicket was good and it worked really well for us," he said.
Misbah also overcame a jinx of sorts, especially against India, when he finished off the game. On several occasions he brought Pakistan to the verge of victory before throwing it away. "Yes, it was actually quite satisfying. As a batsman, you try to finish off the game every time, but sometime it happens, sometimes it doesn't. One just needs to keep trying," he said.
With Malik's leadership skills coming under close scrutiny, Misbah's showing against India have only made the murmurs of his elevation to the hot seat louder.